Kierkegaard and the Philosophy of Love 0739184946, 9780739184943

Ironically, the philosophy of love has long been neglected by philosophers, so-called “lovers of wisdom,” who would seem

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Kierkegaard and the Philosophy of Love
 0739184946, 9780739184943

Table of contents :
1 Introduction
2 Love’s Incitement
3 Love’s Immediacy
4 Love’s Intentionality
5 Love’s Eternity
6 Love’s Fall
7 Love’s Fear
8 Conclusion
About the Author

Citation preview

Kierkegaard and the Philosophy of Love

Kierkegaard and the Philosophy of Love Michael Strawser

LEXINGTON BOOKS Lanham • Boulder • New York • London

Published by Lexington Books An imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706 Unit A, Whitacre Mews, 26-34 Stannary Street, London SE11 4AB Copyright © 2015 by Lexington Books All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Strawser, Michael. Kierkegaard and the philosophy of love / Michael Strawser. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-7391-8493-6 (cloth : alk. paper) -- ISBN 978-0-7391-8494-3 (electronic) 1. Kierkegaard, Søren, 1813-1855. 2. Love. I. Title. B4378.L6S77 2015 198'.9--dc23 2015020564 TM The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.

Printed in the United States of America

To the ones I love


Preface 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Introduction Love’s Incitement Love’s Immediacy Love’s Intentionality Love’s Eternity Love’s Fall Love’s Fear Conclusion

1 31 67 91 115 135 169 187





About the Author




Loving people is the only thing worth living for. —Kierkegaard 1

In The Point of View for My Work as an Author Søren Kierkegaard explains that “the issue”—“the total thought”—of his entire authorship is centered on the task of becoming a Christian. 2 This issue was explored in depth by the pseudonym Johannes Climacus in Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, a text Kierkegaard identifies as “the turning point” in The Point of View. In the present work, I wish to argue that Kierkegaard’s central issue can and should be understood more broadly and phenomenologically as the task of becoming a lover. One would perhaps like to think that these two tasks are identical, but such a claim could not be made to stick practically, and with regard to love it is really only practice that matters. In other words, in this work I seek to understand the philosophy of love that lies at the heart of Kierkegaard’s authorship. I seek to understand the central features of this philosophy and the major difficulties it may hold. In book after book written under pseudonyms and in his own name, Kierkegaard describes multiple experiences of love, including romantic love, marital love, friendship, neighborly love, and the love of God. Herein I examine these multiple perspectives while seeking to answer what is perhaps the most central question in the philosophy of love: Is a unified conception of love possible, or are there essentially different kinds of love? In addition, I attempt to provide a background to the philosophy of love more generally and to situate Kierkegaard within this rich context by showing how his philosophy of love relates to other conceptions of love with which he was familiar, while also showing how Kierkegaard’s writings on love are relevant to the philosophy of love today. Thus this work can serve as ix



an original reading of both Kierkegaard’s diverse writings and the growing area of the philosophy of love, which ironically has long been neglected by philosophers, so-called “lovers of wisdom,” who would seemingly need to understand how one best becomes a lover. Happily, philosophers are warming up to love, as the number of scholarly monographs devoted to the philosophy of love has increased significantly in the last few decades. While readers of Kierkegaard may have generally been more receptive to the philosophy of love than readers of other major philosophers, it is only fairly recently that scholars of Kierkegaard have brought the issue of love in Kierkegaard’s writings to the forefront. It is perhaps not surprising for an author who tried “to make difficulties everywhere” 3 that literature on Kierkegaard’s writings would be difficult to characterize. While the twentieth century literature on Kierkegaard’s remarkable authorship has seen a host of varying emphases and interpretations— some commentators have emphasized the pseudonymous works, while others have focused on the veronymous ones, with their interpretations often highlighting existential or theological concerns—the major interpretations of the early twenty-first century can already be seen as sharing a common focus. This focus is love. Today readers of Kierkegaard can be thankful for an increasing number of books devoted to aspects of Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love—which suggests that this area is an important and growing one—as the list of twenty-first century texts with this emphasis is already impressive. For example, M. Jamie Ferreira’s Love’s Grateful Striving: A Commentary on Kierkegaard’s Works of Love (2001) presents readers with the only comprehensive commentary on Works of Love, but obviously, this excellent commentary does not attempt to provide a more general account of Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love. In Kierkegaard and the Treachery of Love (2002) Amy Laura Hall provides rich and sensitive readings of four of Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous works with “an eye toward [their] textual and thematic intersections with Works of Love.” 4 Hall’s work, however, offers a theological interpretation which pits Kierkegaard’s writings of love against each other rather than seeking a more unified, philosophical interpretation, as I propose to do. C. Stephen Evans’s Kierkegaard’s Ethic of Love: Divine Commands and Moral Obligations (2004) attempts to read Works of Love as providing a divine command ethical theory, and Rick Anthony Furtak’s Wisdom in Love: Kierkegaard and the Ancient Quest for Emotional Integrity (2005) 5 brings Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love into relationship with ancient Stoic philosophy. Sharon Krishek’s Kierkegaard on Faith and Love (2009) provides an important new account of Kierkegaard’s concept of love and its relationship to the concept of faith by focusing on Works of Love and Fear and Trembling, but this work is also of a more limited scope, although its discussion of romantic love and self-love have been influential for the present work. 6 Another recent work that is important for the present study is John Lippitt’s



Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love (2013), which tackles the difficult question of whether one can love oneself. Additionally, two notable recently published works take up the issue of Kierkegaardian eros within a theological context: Lee C. Barrett’s Eros and Self-Emptying: The Intersections of Augustine and Kierkegaard (2013) and Carl S. Hughes’s Kierkegaard and the Staging of Desire: Rhetoric and Performance in a Theology of Eros (2014). Although this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of twenty-first century works devoted to Kierkegaard and love, what these and related works clearly show is that Kierkegaard’s understanding of love is a vibrant area of interest today. Furthermore, they can also be seen as suggesting the need for a more wide-ranging work devoted to analyzing Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love, from the early The Concept of Irony and Edifying Discourses to the late The Moment, while showing the prominence of Works of Love, as well as the discussions of love found in Either/Or, Stages on Life’s Way, Fear and Trembling, and other writings. This is what I attempt to do in the present work. In contrast to much recent scholarship, in this work I seek to focus on the philosophy of love as the central theme for a more comprehensive interpretation of Kierkegaard’s multifarious writings. My work will start within the broader context of the philosophy of love in general, as I shall pursue the questions and themes that are central to this growing area of scholarship— while including a discussion of the key conceptions of love found in Plato, Spinoza, and Hegel, as well as the contemporary work of Irving Singer, Harry Frankfurt, and Martha Nussbaum—and then seek to understand how Kierkegaard’s writings may be read as addressing these questions and relating to these themes. What is perhaps the most unique perspective of this work, however, is that I shall argue that Kierkegaard’s writings of love are most fruitfully understood within the context of a phenomenology of love. For this reason, I shall claim that Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love is best understood as a phenomenology of love. As philosophers, lovers of wisdom, we appreciate the forceful claim de omnibus dubitandum est, but it is doubtless that throughout his many writings Kierkegaard’s heightened concern is love, as he repeatedly endeavors to describe and illuminate the intentional lived experiences of lovers. Additionally, the attempt to read Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist is an exciting new area of Kierkegaard studies that has recently been addressed in Kierkegaard as Phenomenologist: An Experiment (2010), in which the editor, Jeffrey Hanson, writes in his introduction to this work that “if Kierkegaard is a phenomenologist, then he is a phenomenologist of love.” 7 Despite this insightful observation, an interpretation of Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist of love is not well-developed in Kierkegaard as Phenomenologist. Thus, this exposes a gap in Kierkegaard studies that I shall try to remedy in the present work. In doing so, however, I shall not follow the



more frequently travelled path when considering the question of Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist of love, for it is not Husserl and Heidegger that we should be looking to for a connection in the first instance, but rather Max Scheler, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Emmanuel Levinas, and perhaps most importantly, Jean-Luc Marion, all of whom are philosophers who, like Kierkegaard, center their philosophical thinking on the phenomenological nature of love. Therefore, I shall explore the philosophy of love as it is developed by these thinkers and in relation to Kierkegaard’s writings, and I shall argue that Kierkegaard presents readers with a first phenomenology of love, a point of view that serves as a unifying perspective throughout my work. This book is intended for a broad audience, ranging from readers, new and professional, interested in Kierkegaard studies, to readers more generally interested in the philosophy of love. It is my hope that readers interested in phenomenology and continental philosophy as well as the closely related areas of ethics, moral philosophy, philosophy of religion, and the philosophy of emotions will also find something valuable here. I should perhaps write something about this work and my previous book on Kierkegaard’s writings, Both/And: Reading Kierkegaard from Irony to Edification (1997). For one might think that given this past work, in which I attempt to provide a comprehensive philosophical reading of Kierkegaard’s writings and argue that whether Kierkegaard is an aesthetic or religious writer is ultimately undecidable, I would be hard put to provide a reading of Kierkegaard as a particular kind of philosopher (i.e., a philosopher of love). To this I would respond, first, that the goal of my previous work was to understand the “both/and” of Kierkegaard’s writings in order to emphasize and not prevent the “either/or” of the reader. In the present context this is all the more significant, for obviously my work involves a choice, indeed it involves multiple choices on every page, some of which may work out and others may not. But more importantly, this goal highlights an experience that is central to the phenomenology of love, and this is the willful advance that one makes towards the other and the presupposition that love lies in the heart of the other. As in my previous work, however, I am not focused on Kierkegaard the person, for this person is inaccessible to me, but rather the focus is on Kierkegaard’s writings, the texts, and thus the presupposition I am making is that love lies at the heart of these writings, a presupposition that I think is easily borne out in our reading. Consequently, there will be no discussion of Kierkegaard’s relationship with Regine, as perhaps one might expect, as I am not concerned with biographical details of Kierkegaard’s love-life, although I shall reflect on some of his writing on his relationship to his father, insofar as this reading may help to illuminate a certain aspect of his philosophy of love.



Second, as I see it, there are clear points of continuity between my previous book and this one. I am still concerned with reading philosophically, and the focus is still on reading Kierkegaard from irony to edification, as both the irony of love and the edification of love will be key elements in the present work. It is also worth adding that although not as prominent, there is still a significance attached to the application of love in Both/And, as the last chapter is titled “The Love of Edification and the Edification of Love.” This may be seen as offering a nice transition to the present work, and all of my published works on Kierkegaard since my first book have focused on his philosophy of love. Third, it is still the case that I do not try to decide between the aesthetic and religious writings, and it may be seen that the focus on love transcends this dichotomy. Further, just as I previously argued that Kierkegaard can be read as both an aesthetic and a religious writer, I here suggest that his philosophy of love integrates both the aesthetic and the religious writings, and that both aesthetic and religious elements comprise the rich experience of love. In general, and in particular, Kierkegaard calls his readers to become love artists 8 and to create works of love throughout their lives. Consequently, as already indicated, I shall work towards a unified conception of Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love, one which does not see “aesthetic” or “erotic” love and “religious” or “Christian” love as absolutely distinct and separate types of love. As I think Kierkegaard would agree, love is defined by love alone. In chapter 1, the “Introduction,” I provide a rather broad look at the philosophy of love, which is understood as a significantly emerging area today, although it is suggested that philosophers should have been interested in love all along. I suggest that with regard to the priority of love, modern philosophy could have gotten off to a better start by considering the centrality of love in Spinoza’s philosophy, which perhaps surprisingly offers harmonious points of resonance with central aspects of Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love. Then I argue that love is Kierkegaard’s most important category, but before exploring his writings, I provide for orientation a sketch of the contemporary landscape of the philosophy of love, which includes a look at Singer’s philosophy of love and Nussbaum and the politics of love. Most notable for the present work is Marion’s clarification of the radical erotic reduction, which provides an interpretive tool for reading Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist of love. My introduction closes with a consideration of writing on love, which relates to the phenomenological approach of this work, while also pointing to the irony of love. In chapter 2, “Love’s Incitement,” I explore Kierkegaard’s earliest writings From the Papers of One Still Living and The Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates and argue that Kierkegaard is from the very beginning of his career writing in order to develop a life-view of love. This life-view begins to take shape in The Concept of Irony, with its focus on the



negative aspect of love as desire which is nevertheless joined to the positive actualization of love through action. In addition to examining the central figure of Socrates, this chapter also includes detailed discussions of the two philosophers who are most influential on the development of Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love, namely, Plato and Hegel. Chapter 3 is titled “Love’s Immediacy,” and here I focus on writings in part 1 of Either/Or, the so-called “aesthetic” part, in particular “The Immediate Erotic Stages” and “The Seducer’s Diary.” I attempt to show how these contribute to our understanding of the experience of love, and Pia Søltoft’s recent article “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love” is important in this discussion. Marion’s The Erotic Phenomenon is also of key importance in understanding the initial advance of love, which allows us to view the seducer more charitably, as well as for our understanding of the immediate experience of the flesh. “Love’s Intentionality,” which is the title of chapter 4, is central to this work not only in position, but also philosophically. Here the direct case is made for reading Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist of love. I argue that Kierkegaard offers readers a first phenomenology of love which is grounded in the intentionality described in his writings on “love hides a multitude of sins” in his early Edifying Discourses and later Works of Love. Here I also consider the historical question of Kierkegaard’s relation to the phenomenological tradition, and a look at the work of Scheler and von Hildebrand is also included. Finally, the problem of forgiveness is considered in light of Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of love. In chapter 5, “Love’s Eternity,” the focus is on trying to catch the glimmering eternal common watermark that love enables us to see. This chapter starts by working towards an understanding of the unity of love and thus addresses the problem that arises through Kierkegaard’s distinction between preferential love (Elskov) and non-preferential love (Kjerlighed). Although we cannot deny that Kierkegaard expresses a distinction between these types of love, I argue that there is ambiguity on this point—which also includes a consideration of Anders Nygren’s sharp division between eros and agape— and that we can move beyond such a view, using the writings of Judge William on the married lover to help us in this regard. Then, as love’s eternity leads us to a reflection on duty and responsibility, I consider Levinas’s writing on love in relation to Kierkegaard’s, and ask whether it is possible to behold a common watermark here. Chapter 6, “Love’s Fall,” deals with the question of self-love and the love of God, both of which are seen as problematic from the perspective of a phenomenology of love. A detailed discussion of the phenomenological attempt to found selfhood is included, as well as an analysis of contemporary



views of self-love given by Marion, Harry Frankfurt, and John Lippitt. Ultimately, it is shown that when loving is the priority any focus on the self is at best derivative. Having now seen that loving human beings is of the utmost significance in Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of love and that the love of self is secondary, if not impossible, it remains to engage the question of the love of God. Chapter 7, “Love’s Fear,” shows that when considered phenomenologically the love of God presents itself as problematic. Here the discussion begins with Kierkegaard’s conclusion to Works of Love and the fearful trembling that is said to be needed in relating to God. Then I consider Fear and Trembling and question how we might see Abraham as a lover. Finally, the relation of the love of the father is discussed with a look at Kierkegaard’s late writings in The Moment. Overall, this work attempts to unify seemingly divergent perspectives into a unity brought about through a focus on love—which is, after all, a unifying force. Chapter 8 provides a “Conclusion” that summarizes this attempt and brings this work to a close. Here I reflect on the absence of love as the despair that leads to the sickness unto death, while also considering the direction of future reflections on the philosophy of love. Of course, this work would not be complete without a final Kierkegaardian call to be a love artist. There are several persons that I wish to thank for helping to see this work take shape. I would like to thank Jana Hodges-Kluck, Shelby Kennedy, and their staff at Lexington Books for their interest and faithful support of this work. I would also like to acknowledge and express my gratitude to an anonymous reader, whose generous review has helped to improve this work in places too many to note. I would also like to thank the many colleagues and Kierkegaard scholars whom I have engaged with throughout the past two decades for their always open and stimulating discussion of Kierkegaard’s ideas. I would also like to thank my students, especially in the sections of my Philosophy of Love course, for their keen interest in this all-important and yet still underprivileged area of study. To those closest to me, whose everyday encounters provide continual occasions for love, I am forever grateful. NOTES 1. See Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, Kierkegaard’s Writings XVI, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995), 375. Author’s slightly revised translation. It is interesting to note that this translation differs from the Hongs’ original translation in 1962. Unless indicated otherwise, quotations will be from the 1995 translation that appears as part of the Kierkegaard’s Writings series. 2. Søren Kierkegaard, The Point of View, Kierkegaard’s Writings XXII, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 31, 41.



3. Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, vol. 1, Kierkegaard’s Writings XII, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), 187. 4. Amy Laura Hall, Kierkegaard and the Treachery of Love (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 55. See my review of this work and Joel D. S. Rasmussen’s Between Irony and Witness: Kierkegaard’s Poetics of Faith, Hope, and Love (New York, NY: T & T Clark, 2005) in Religion & Literature 39.1 (Spring 2007), 132-136. 5. For my review of Furtak’s work see Søren Kierkegaard Newsletter 50 (August 2006), 27-29. 6. For my review of Krishek’s work see Søren Kierkegaard Newsletter 56 (November 2010), 23-25. 7. Jeffrey Hanson, ed., “Introduction,” Kierkegaard as Phenomenologist: An Experiment (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2010), xx. 8. See Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 158-159.

Chapter One


Anyone who doesn’t take love as a starting point will never understand the nature of philosophy. —Plato/Badiou 1

LOVE AND PHILOSOPHY Love is a complicated thing. Given that philosophers are by definition “lovers of wisdom,” we might reasonably expect that they would be the best equipped to elucidate the complexities and set our hearts and minds at rest with regard to this most complicated subject. Unfortunately, this has not been the case throughout the centuries, and recently philosophers seem generally to agree that “love” itself is at best ambiguous and at worst an unmanageable subject. Examples are not hard to find—from the French phenomenologist Emmanuel Levinas, who says, “I don’t very much like the word love, which is worn-out and debased,” 2 to the noted American philosopher Harry Frankfurt, who writes that “the category of love is notoriously difficult to elucidate.” 3 This would explain why philosophers have for the most part remained silent about love, a silence which is piercingly decried in Jean-Luc Marion’s introduction to The Erotic Phenomenon, “The Silence of Love,” where he doubts “whether philosophers experience love,” and claims not only that “philosophers have in fact forsaken love,” but more radically that “philosophy does not love love.” 4 Other disciplines such as literature, theology, and psychology, apparently have more to say about love, but as Marion recognizes, we need philosophers to help guide our inquiry into love and help us understand the meaning of love conceptually. Another call that can be heard today for philosophy to serve love is given by Alain Badiou, who argues in In Praise of Love that 1


Chapter 1

“love, in today’s world, is . . . under threat” and that “it is the task of philosophy . . . to rally to its defense.” 5 Hence it is high time for philosophy to appreciate its origin and give it the respect it deserves. Marion’s work is especially exciting and holds profound implications, as his phenomenological analysis of the concept of love offers a significant contemporary breakthrough in the philosophy of love, and thus it will be an important reference point throughout this work. But while Marion reasonably questions philosophy’s devotion to its origin of love, it is nevertheless a somewhat hyperbolic view that philosophy lacks lovers of love. It is, of course, entirely defensible to see the modern philosophical tradition initiated by René Descartes as one that largely overlooks the philosophy of love, and interestingly, Descartes is the only major philosopher Marion refers to by name in The Erotic Phenomenon. This reference occurs early in the text, 6 where it also becomes clear that Marion’s text is designed to provide us with a new Meditations on First Philosophy, one that holds to the primacy of love, and thus undermines the primacy of self as deduced by Descartes. An alternative view to the traditional reading of modern philosophy could be offered, however, and one that is doubly at odds with the common interpretation. On this view, Spinoza, could be dignified with the title of “the first modern philosopher” rather than Descartes. 7 More importantly, he could be read as essentially a philosopher of love, one who sees love as having central importance in his philosophy. Unfortunately, we can only imagine the effect this reading of Spinoza would have had on the development of modern philosophy, for instead of a view expressing the primacy of emotions and the momentousness of the active emotions for living the good life, the primacy of metaphysical and epistemological truth has dominated our understanding of modern philosophy. 8 Spinoza’s philosophy is significant for expressing a nuanced, multifaceted view of love that is ultimately defined as an active emotion based on reason and ultimately derived from the eternal God. But it is also important for the ways that it is related to Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love, despite the fact that Spinoza and Kierkegaard are fairly consistently presented by professors of philosophy as being at odds. After all, consider their differences. Kierkegaard, born a Danish Christian, is, as the professors teach us, a great “existentialist” thinker—one who advocates an unsystematic leap into irrationalism through faith in an absurd, transcendent God. Whereas we are taught that Spinoza, born a Dutch Jew, is a rationalist par excellence—one who is focused on the pursuit of systematic objective knowledge of an immanent God. Could these differences be any greater? Although briefly and perhaps superficially expressed, these differences might seem to preclude any serious scholarship on these two thinkers, and thus the secondary literature on the relationship between Spinoza and Kierkegaard is scant. Clare Carlisle’s recent article 9 offers the best, and to date



only, overview of this relationship. Carlisle’s list of “Secondary Literature on Kierkegaard’s relation to Spinoza” includes only eight sources: three in French, two in German, one in Spanish, and two in English, both of which are PhD dissertations from the early 1960s. Although Carlisle’s list may not be exhaustive, 10 it does witness to a serious lack of interest and a perceived lack of connection between these two thinkers. I contend, at the very least, that this double-lack deserves critical attention. After all, although the references to Spinoza in Kierkegaard’s writings are “relatively few and far between,” he did read “the philosopher of Amsterdam” and engaged with his ideas. The Auction Catalogue of Kierkegaard’s Library includes the 1830 Latin edition of Spinoza’s complete works as well as fifty-one works that discuss Spinoza. Carlisle shows that “Kierkegaard read Spinoza’s obscurer works in addition to the well-known Ethics and Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, and most of his own pseudonymous texts contain some mention of Spinoza.” Carlisle examines these passages to show what Kierkegaard thought of Spinoza’s philosophy, but as this work has already been well-done, and since my main focus is not on the historical question, I wish to suggest a different path. A path of love. Kierkegaard writes in his Journals that “in order to see one light determinately, we always need another light.” 11 And in Works of Love he writes that “one man may do the very opposite of what another does; but if each one does the opposite out of love, the opposites build up.” 12 Thus, I consider it worthwhile to explain, however briefly, Spinoza’s philosophy of love as it may serve as another light and edifying opposition to raise readers’ awareness of what is required in pursuing the path of eternal love, which is ultimately the common goal of both thinkers. As we shall also see on many points throughout this work, our understanding of the philosophy of love can be deepened by considering the relations between Spinoza’s and Kierkegaard’s thinking. SPINOZA’S STAGES ON LOVE’S WAY The fact that Spinoza entitled his magnum opus “Ethics” is significant, for it highlights what is most central in Spinoza’s vision, and this is not metaphysics or epistemology as commonly interpreted, but rather a practical ethics of life. Had Spinoza wished to highlight something else, he could have entitled his greatest work “Truth,” “True Knowledge,” or “The Way of Reason,” but he did not. Nor did he call it “God” or “Nature,” which would not have been unreasonable. Instead, his work is simply entitled Ethics (1677). 13 This signifies that the heart of Spinoza’s philosophy and the key value of this work


Chapter 1

lie in communicating the proper way of living or acting in the world. Not surprisingly, then, an understanding of “love” can be found in the heart of this work. We all know that coming to terms with love is difficult, and to complicate matters, there is some ambiguity in Spinoza’s presentation of love in his Ethics. Careful readers will find that there are three seemingly distinct conceptions of love at work within his text, which can appropriately be understood in Kierkegaardian terms as aesthetic, ethical, and religious conceptions. In his Ethics Spinoza writes of love in the following ways: (1) love as a passion defined as “pleasure accompanied by the idea of an external cause,” 14 (2) love as an action, equated with “nobility” (generositas) which conquers hatred 15 and is defined as “the desire by which each person, in accordance with the dictate of reason alone, endeavors to help other men and join them to him in friendship,” 16 and (3) love as an action based on understanding God—the intellectual love of God (amor dei intellectualis)—understood as “pleasure, accompanied by the idea of God as its cause.” 17 Let us consider some of the details. Although the term “love” is not geometrically defined and discussed until part 3 of Ethics, the ambiguity appears earlier in the text. The first use of “love” occurs parenthetically in proposition 31 of part 1, where it is claimed to “be related to passive and not to active Nature.” “Love” does not appear again until it is found in the lengthy and significant scholium that closes part 2. This scholium is significant because in responding to criticisms against determinism and explaining the practical benefits of this doctrine, Spinoza projects themes that are central in the last part of his work. The mention of “love” is in the following sentence: “This doctrine, therefore, besides the fact that it makes the mind entirely calm, has the further benefit that it teaches us in what our supreme happiness, or, our blessedness, consists: namely, solely in the knowledge of God, from which we are led to do only those things which love and piety advise.” 18 So love advises. Love advises us to do only those things that will lead to our blessedness. Consequently, this is clearly not the kind of love that belongs to our passive nature as initially mentioned in part 1 and further explained in part 3. It is rather the kind of love that acts, rather than reacts, that prevents or weakens the passive emotions of hate, anger, and envy. This love advises us to help our neighbors, “not from effeminate pity, bias, or superstition, but solely from the guidance of reason.” 19 Thus, love does not lack rationality, and the lover will continually strive to make this love intuitive. What is primary in Spinoza’s philosophy of love is not the conception of love as initially defined by Spinoza as “pleasure with the accompaniment of the idea of an external cause” 20 and for this reason it is not necessary for us to distinguish the different manifestations of this kind of love as determined by its various objects (e.g., the love of sports, food, etc.). Love, as such,



remains to be adequately understood, and Spinoza clearly moves beyond this conception when in the course of explaining the supposedly passive dynamics of love and hate he writes: “Proposition 43: Hatred is increased by reciprocal hatred, and conversely can be destroyed by love.” This proposition should give readers pause for at least two reasons: first, because of the powerful idea expressed—there is a way to remove hatred—and second, because of the ambiguous use of “love.” It seems obvious that we are now dealing with a deeper conception of love. One cannot substitute Spinoza’s “essential” definition into this proposition and have it fully make sense. The love that is now being referred to is active rather than passive. There is another term Spinoza uses to refer to what we may understand as active, ethical love, and that is “nobility.” Not surprisingly, this term is repeatedly equated with love. After fifty-seven propositions in part 3 that explain “the origin and nature of the emotions” and categorize forty-six passive emotions, Spinoza writes only two propositions which explain active emotions rather than passions. Proposition 58 reads: “Besides the pleasure and the desire which are passions there exist other emotions of pleasure and desire which are related to us in so far as we act.” Then in the scholium to the following proposition Spinoza writes that all the active emotions are related to fortitude, which covers two categories of emotions, courage and nobility. For by “courage” I understand “the desire by which each person endeavours to preserve his being in accordance with the dictate of reason alone,” and by “nobility” I understand “the desire by which each person, in accordance with the dictate of reason alone, endeavors to help other men and join them to him in friendship.” 21

Here we see that love can be understood as a rational emotion, and Spinoza thereby embraces rather than denies the rationality of love. 22 Further, for Spinoza it is essential for an active person to try to help others, and it should be pointed out that the notion of “friendship” is not that which we normally consider to be based on personal preferences. It cannot be, since it is commanded by reason alone. A “friend” in Spinoza’s sense is what Kierkegaard calls the neighbor, and what philosophers generally designate as the other. Nobility has now been defined, but what’s love got to do with it? Is it possible to ground our interpretation of nobility as love in the text itself? In a significant proposition in part 4 Spinoza writes: “Someone who lives in accordance with the guidance of reason endeavors, as far as he can, to repay the hatred, anger, contempt, etc. that another has for him with love, [that is] with nobility.” 23 So, now, for Spinoza, it is clear that by “love” he means nobility, amor sive generositas (and in the demonstration of this proposition Spinoza refers readers to the initial reference to nobility as well as the proposition that hatred can be extinguished by love.) 24 Love is now adequately


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understood as a purely internal movement of the self, although it is intended to have external effects—to decrease hatred, anger, contempt, and so forth— works of love leading to fruits of love, if you will. Following the command of reason, it is clear that one shall love, and through acts of love one strengthens and preserves one’s own being. Without love one lives miserably, 25 and as Kierkegaard suggests in The Sickness unto Death, published under the pseudonym Anti-Climacus, the lack of love can lead one to despair and ultimately destroy a person. 26 In the final scholium in part 4 Spinoza writes: These and similar things that I have demonstrated about the true freedom of man are related to fortitude, that is to courage and nobility. I do not think it worthwhile to demonstrate here, one by one, that a free man hates no one, is angry with no one, envies no one, is indignant with no one, despises no one, and is far from being proud. For these, and all the things that relate to true life and religion, are easily demonstrated from Props. 37 and 46 of this Part: namely, that hatred is to be conquered by love, and that each person who is led by reason desires that the good that he seeks for himself should also exist for others. 27

There are other passages in the Ethics where Spinoza indicates the equivalence of love and nobility, but we do not need to continue our exposition of this point. We are now justified in reading Spinoza’s Ethics as a philosophy of love and to project an alternative history of philosophy with a more central focus on the category of love. KIERKEGAARD’S MOST IMPORTANT CATEGORY More obviously than Spinoza, but still frequently overlooked, Søren Kierkegaard, the paradoxically labelled “father of existentialism,” grasps the primacy of love as evidenced in writings that overflow with its riches. As we shall see, Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love provides evidence of a movement from aesthetic to ethical-religious categories, and it is decidedly sub specie aeternitatis, since for Kierkegaard the duty to love is understood as “a change of eternity” and the goal of the lover is to love sub specie aeternitatis, which secures the lover against every change, despair, and frees her in blessed independence. 28 In contrast to Spinoza, Kierkegaard produces multiple writings that are centrally focused on love and not obstructed by a metaphysical, geometrical structure, however impressive, although Kierkegaard’s overall concept may not be entirely clear to readers at first glance due to the seductive multiplicity of perspectives encountered throughout his writings.



The dominant perspective in this work, however, is that in Kierkegaard’s philosophy the most important and essential category is love (Kjerlighed). From the mid-twentieth century up to the present day, Kierkegaard has been considered primarily an existentialist philosopher who focuses mainly on the dark human experiences of anxiety, fear, and sin. The central aim of this work, then, is to show that Kierkegaard is first and foremost a philosopher of love and that his writings offer a rich phenomenology of love for readers. Consequently, as we shall see, not only is it possible to read Kierkegaard as offering a much more positive philosophy of human experience, but his own writings suggest—admittedly sometimes against himself elsewhere—that it is only when we fail to love that these darker human experiences, such as the sickness unto death, arise. Kierkegaard, however, can hardly be blamed for the general failure of earlier philosophers to recognize the importance he attributes to the philosophy of love. After all, he wrote book after book on the nature of love, from his magisterial dissertation On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates in 1841, his earliest Edifying Discourses on the theme “love will hide a multitude of sins” and the pseudonymous Either/Or published in 1843, the year he identifies as the beginning of his authorship proper, to his arguably greatest writing Works of Love published in 1847, 29 to his late discourse on The Changelessness of God published in 1855, the year of his death. In these works and others, written under pseudonyms and in his own name, Kierkegaard illustrates multiple experiences of love, including romantic love, marital love, friendship, neighborly love, and the love of God. Ironically, then, it is philosophers—so-called “lovers of wisdom”—who have neglected the concept of love for all too long, and thus devoted little attention to this most central category in Kierkegaard’s writings. While Kierkegaard claimed in the posthumously published The Point of View for My Work as an Author that the central issue of his whole authorship was how to become a Christian, 30 I wish to argue that Kierkegaard’s central problem can be understood more broadly and phenomenologically as how to become a lover. This perspective has the benefit of avoiding religious exclusivity and other difficulties encountered with Christian beliefs—some of which Kierkegaard knew all too well—while it also may serve as a corrective to problematic views that Kierkegaard himself could not see beyond. In this way I shall chart a path that follows Kierkegaard, but as Derrida puts it, “a Kierkegaard who would not necessarily be Christian, and you can imagine how difficult that is to think,” and a Kierkegaard who provides the means “to think beyond his own Christianity.” 31 How we are to label this “beyond”— whether un-Christian, Christian, or post-Christian—is of no concern to me here, as my central concern is on love.


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As we shall see, the philosophy of love lies at the heart of Kierkegaard’s authorship, and it is this fact that not only sustains Kierkegaard’s relevance two hundred years after his birth, but also magnifies his significance for those of us still living. Fortunately, the philosophy of love is a growing area of scholarship today, and it is difficult to find a writer who has reflected more profoundly and written more extensively on the nature of love than Kierkegaard. Love, for Kierkegaard, lies at the source of the maieutic practices of both irony and edification. Kierkegaard writes in order to build up his readers, and in Works of Love he explains that “building up is exclusively characteristic of love” and “to edify means to presuppose love; to be loving means to presuppose love; only love builds up.” 32 Throughout his vast authorship, readers of Kierkegaard are entreated to look through the “eye of love,” 33 a metaphorical expression that alludes to a shifted perspective leading beyond the natural attitude to a vision that invokes a “change of eternity” in which “all things are made new.” 34 Readers, then, are edified to become lovers. Lovers are constituted by love, and their acts bring forth love; they “love up” (elske op) love. 35 Thus, of all the categories that may help to define the particularity of Kierkegaard’s thought, the greatest of these is love. So, has love been forsaken by philosophers? Have philosophers finally come to realize their ironic neglect of the source of their longing and what is arguably the most important of concepts? In this introductory chapter I begin by reflecting on the long neglect and the happy return to the philosophy of love. The context will be set initially by considering key perspectives in work of Irving Singer, who noted in The Nature of Love that “the analysis of love has been neglected more than almost any other subject in philosophy,” 36 and Jean-Luc Marion, who as quoted above, has powerfully exposed the silence of love by philosophers and offers us important phenomenological insights for approaching love. These contemporary philosophers are not alone in their dismay over the lack of love, as cultural critic bell hooks has expressed her bewilderment at the world’s lack of openness to love and our “turning away from love,” thus provoking her own powerful “call for a return to love.” 37 With the recent celebrations of the two hundredth anniversary of Kierkegaard’s birth in 1813, we do well to recall that in the mid-nineteenth century Kierkegaard put forth his own call for a return to love in a series of remarkable writings designed to “move, mollify, reassure, persuade . . . awaken and provoke” 38 readers to love. Happily, the twenty-first century has seen an increase of interest in the philosophy of love, as marked in part by the contributions of contemporary thinkers mentioned above as well as works such as Harry Frankfurt’s influential The Reasons of Love (2004) and Martha Nussbaum’s recent Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice (2013). Before venturing on to the central subject matter of Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love, I shall survey the



contemporary landscape of the philosophy of love in order to, first, identify central questions in the philosophy of love, and second, project how Kierkegaard’s writings cast light on and respond to these questions. A GLANCE AT THE CONTEMPORARY LANDSCAPE OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF LOVE Singer’s Philosophy of Love Let us now begin to cast a glance at the contemporary landscape of the philosophy of love by considering in broad stokes the influential work of Irving Singer, American pioneer in the philosophy of love. Singer’s earliest major work on love is The Nature of Love: Plato to Luther, which appeared in 1966 and was the first volume of a large three-volume study that has recently been reprinted as part of The Irving Singer Library. Volume 3 of Singer’s trilogy deals with the modern world, and in this volume Singer starts by examining the “anti-Romantic Romantics,” who are Kierkegaard, Tolstoy, and Nietzsche. Singer at once recognizes the fertility of the writings of Kierkegaard, whom he asserts “writes book after book about the nature of love,” 39 and yet Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love it not given its due within Singer’s overall view. One reason for this may be the sheer complexity of Kierkegaard’s thinking, for as Singer accurately observes: “Kierkegaard’s works are so richly dialectical, so greatly given to irony, and so often pseudonymous that everything he says lends itself to different interpretations.” 40 Nevertheless, Singer proceeds, as we all must, to provide an interpretation, but it is one that emphasizes “the conflict between sick and healthy aspects of [Kierkegaard’s] being” 41 ultimately culminating in a doctrinal religious view “that is too remote from human experience to be convincing.” 42 Consequently, Singer’s reading of Kierkegaard cannot be of much use here, for we need neither share this emphasis nor accept this conclusion. But what about Singer’s own philosophy of love? What significance might it hold for the present study? For a brief survey of Singer’s philosophy of love, readers would do well to begin with Singer’s recent The Philosophy of Love: A Partial Summing Up, which is by all indications a work about love wrought with love. Although slim and written for the general reader, this is the kind of book one wants to read by an eminent philosopher who has devoted his philosophical career to the study of love. It is an intriguing and open “apologia pro mente sua . . . an illustrated miniature of [Singer’s] life as a thinker or would-be philosopher.” 43 This work, then, as observed by Alan Soble in the foreward, is “as much an intellectual autobiography as it is an exploration of love and sex.” 44 Intellectually, Singer identifies himself as “a modern-day existentialist, or pragmatistic humanist and pluralist,” 45 and in a prefatory note he


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explains why this work is “a partial summing-up” in two senses. First, Singer is selective in his consideration of ideas that have occurred throughout his numerous published works on love, although any criteria for his selections go unidentified. Nevertheless, there is a mixture of ideas both old and new, colloquially presented in an “occasionally amorphous framework.” 46 Second, Singer suggests that given the nature of the philosophical enterprise, all such works are partial and fall short of providing a final comprehensive look at the questions raised. A great benefit of this work is the accessible historical overview of the subject presented by Singer, and the several key distinctions—Singer basically considers himself to be “a maker of distinctions” 47—that will prove useful to any careful investigation of the subject. For example, from the beginning we are asked to consider Romantic love, which is later distinguished from Courtly love, and whether this is a relatively recent idea. Singer’s view is that “the claim that Romantic love is an invention of the latter period [nineteenth-century romanticism] is therefore of limited value, and, on the face of it, mistaken,” 48 a view that highlights the insightful way Singer understands the history of ideas as part of a continuous development—one that begins with Plato. Significant attention is devoted to Plato, who according to Singer provides “the most fertile and powerful single body of thought about love that anyone has ever created throughout Western civilization.” 49 As we shall see below, Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love is deeply aligned with the thinking of Socrates and Plato, perhaps much more than is usually recognized. 50 Nevertheless, Singer opposes the central concepts found within the Platonic doctrine, which he identifies as “merging” and “transcendence,” and he moves “beyond idealism” toward a naturalistic and pluralistic philosophy of love. Such a philosophy, Singer speculates at the end of the text, would benefit from a harmonization of research in the humanities and science. Kierkegaard, in contrast, while not necessarily rejecting a qualified naturalistic conception, can be read as providing a phenomenological conception of love, one that clearly invokes transcendence, since God, who is love, is the mysterious source of all love, and the neighbor or other, who is the focus of one’s love is viewed through the light of eternity as endowed with the common watermark. 51 Thus although we find distinctions between different types of love within Kierkegaard, such as the distinction between Elskov and Kjerlighed, which Singer would likely refer to as romantic love and Christian love respectively, it is still arguably the case that Kierkegaard offers a unified rather than pluralistic conception. At least I shall attempt to make this case in the present work. Singer makes further distinctions within Romantic love (e.g., passionate love is distinguished from companionate love), but by far the most significant distinction in Singer’s philosophy of love is that between appraisal and



bestowal. Appraisal involves discovering value, whereas bestowal involves creating value, 52 such “that lovers create a value in one another that exceeds the individual or objective value each may also be appraised to have.” 53 In Philosophy of Love, Singer introduces the discussion of bestowal in his analysis of Freud’s work, and he nicely explains how “Freud has no adequate idea of bestowal.” 54 Kierkegaard, in contrast and as I intend to show in this study, should be recognized as offering us a valuable analysis of the way lovers bestow value through acts of love. Thus it is unfortunate that Singer does not consider Kierkegaard in his “partial summing-up” and fails to connect Kierkegaard and the concept of bestowal in The Nature of Love. Nevertheless, Singer’s distinction alone poses a significant question for the philosophy of love, for when we enact love are we discovering an already existing value as an appraiser does when assessing the value of a house, or are we adding a new value to the world? This is a complicated question, and in general Singer recognizes both functions, for he writes: “As a function of bestowal as well as appraisal, love is a state of valuation; it enhances the importance of the object through our active acceptance of it.” 55 Thus, however we view this question, readers will be thankful for the value Singer has bestowed on the philosophy of love as a viable intellectual area to be pursued. Since Singer’s Philosophy of Love: A Partial Summing-Up is an informal and personal intellectual autobiography that is only rather loosely organized, it would be unfair to criticize him for not providing more detailed arguments for some of the points made throughout his text. However, three major concerns arise that invite further inquiry, something which Singer would no doubt be happy to occasion. First, although Singer clearly makes “no pretensions about definitive objectivity,” 56 one may well wonder why so much attention is devoted to philosophers who are pessimistic about love and in a certain sense actually lack a positive philosophy of love. Examples include Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, and Sartre. Regarding Sartre, Singer claims that he is the “most impressive philosopher of love” in twentieth-century existentialism, 57 and yet just a few pages later Singer points out that Sartre’s “emphasis upon the unavoidable separateness between human beings”— most provocatively expressed in the view that “Hell is other people” 58— “seems radically incompatible with love” 59! For this reason one may well argue that Sartre lacks a philosophy of love, for an overall negative view of human relations (which is also found in the other pessimistic philosophers listed above) is not a philosophy of love, in the same sense that Kierkegaard argues in From the Papers of One Still Living that skepticism and the distrust of life are not “life-views.” 60 In other words, shouldn’t a philosophy of love, like Singer’s own, be one that values love? In which case more attention should be given to prominent figures in the history of philosophy whose life-views are arguably centered


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on love, such as Spinoza, as we have already seen, and Kierkegaard, as will be argued in this work, and other thinkers within the phenomenological tradition such as Dietrich von Hildebrand, author of The Nature of Love, 61 Max Scheler, author of Ordo Amoris (The Order of Love), 62 and the already mentioned Jean-Luc Marion. While a discussion of these figures is surprisingly lacking in Philosophy of Love, Friedrich Nietzsche, however, is considered in some detail. Nietzsche, more than the other pessimistic philosophers, provides conflicting perspectives on love, but there are undoubtedly passages in Nietzsche’s works that lend themselves to a generally negative and cynical view of love. Singer’s discussion of Nietzsche, however, focuses on the concept of amor fati, which he interprets as the cosmic love of everything from “the periodic table in chemistry” to the “explosions that are taking place in remote galaxies.” 63 Such a view is wrong-headed, according to Singer, who finds it ridiculous to think that we can love everything even under our own sun. But is this the most accurate and charitable interpretation of amor fati? When Nietzsche first mentions this idea—“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth!”—in section 276 of The Gay Science, 64 can it not be viewed as a profound act of bestowal, a creative act that bestows value on all the particularities of one’s life? On this reading, the seeds of a positive philosophy of love may be found in Nietzsche, who admitted to seeing Spinoza as his precursor, 65 but unfortunately never came into contact with Kierkegaard’s writings. The second major concern that arises with Singer’s work is what do we understand as a phenomenology of love? Singer says that he is offering readers a “phenomenological blueprint” of love, 66 and yet it is very difficult to find its relatedness to the phenomenological tradition. Perhaps even more problematic is trying to figure out how this supposed “phenomenological blueprint” meshes with his rejection of the concept of “transcendence”? For Singer—trained as an analytic philosopher, who courageously took on the serious philosophical study of the supposedly frivolous concept of love— provides no explanation of what is entailed by a phenomenological study, and, surprisingly, there is no discussion of Husserl and his pioneering methodology in either this work or the love trilogy. Singer’s important concept of bestowal, however, seems ripe for a phenomenological reading—if it is not already at play in what we would mean by a phenomenology of love—since it could be described as an intentional act of consciousness through which one creates a positive value that is irreducible to the material world as grasped within the natural attitude. It is interesting to note that Singer’s understanding of bestowal has changed throughout his career, and toward the end of Philosophy of Love he states that “the rather amorphous concept of bestowal . . . must be treated as a pervasive and imaginative component of



human creativity.” 67 So, while humans through a particular conscious act create or make love in the world, the values that are created transcend the objective values discovered through appraisal. Singer writes: “[W]e are able to transcend all that [appraisive values] through bestowal without eliminating the unavoidable presence of appraisal.” 68 Thus, although he strongly opposes the concept, there is at least a sense of transcendence in Singer’s philosophy of love, and as Kierkegaard and the majority of philosophers of love suggest, it seems wrong-headed to develop a philosophy of love without any reference to transcendence. Even Spinoza, whose philosophy is supposedly marked by immanence, nevertheless recognizes that for human beings—modes of God—there is the whole which is beyond us, although in some sense we have access to this whole. At any rate, Singer’s opposition to transcendence problematizes a “phenomenological blueprint,” especially since he ultimately holds that “love is an emanation grounded in matter, and comparable to its parental origin.” 69 Finally, the third concern occasioned by Singer’s rich work is this: Which perspective shall we take in exploring the philosophy of love, a pluralistic one or a more unified one? Which is preferable? Which is more edifying—a perspective like Singer’s that expresses the plurality of love and opposes the search for a univocal concept, or one like Jean-Luc Marion’s in The Erotic Phenomenon, that opposes the desire to make numerous distinctions regarding love and instead argues for a concept of love that is distinguished by its unity? Clearly a foundational question for the philosophy of love arises from juxtaposing the perspectives of Singer and Marion, and however we answer the question, we can be grateful for Singer’s work, which makes it possible to conceive this question in all its richness. Marion and the Erotic Reduction Jean-Luc Marion’s The Erotic Phenomenon—originally published as Le phénomène érotique in 2003 and appearing in English in 2007—is a breakthrough work in the philosophy of love for it introduces a radical reduction, which Marion calls “the erotic reduction.” This methodological tool, which is arguably even more distinctive than Marion’s well-known concept of the saturated phenomenon, allows us to view the primacy of love and to describe the experience of love as it manifests itself. Marion’s phenomenological investigation starts from the bold premise that the concept of love refers to a unified phenomenon and challenges his readers to hold onto this one view. Every concept of love is weakened and compromised as soon as one allows oneself to distinguish competing divergent, or indeed irreconcilable, meanings—for example, by opposing from the outset, as if it were an unquestionable evidence, love and charity (ἔρως and ἀγάπη), supposedly possessive desire and supposedly gratuitous benevolence, rational love (of the moral law)


Chapter 1 and irrational passion. A serious concept of love distinguishes itself by its unity, or rather by its power to keep together significations that nonerotic thought cuts apart, stretches, and tears according to the measure of its prejudices. The entire effort consists in maintaining for as long a time as possible the indivisibility of the single garment of love. The search will thus unfold, so far as we are capable, without the analysis at any moment forcing a choice of one pole rather than another (sexual difference rather than filial affection, the human rather than God, ἔρως rather than ἀγάπη). Univocal, love is only told in one way. 70

Maintaining the unity of love, as Marion suggests with the phrase “so far as we are capable,” can be seen as providing a difficult problem for philosophers of love, especially since it is all too common to multiply the meanings of love and to attempt to draw sharp distinctions between these meanings. We have already seen this in Singer’s work, but it appears even more widespread on the work of psychologists, theologians, and journalists, who provide us with popular notions of love. My intention here, however, is not primarily to defend Marion’s view, although I feel that readers of his work will be hard-pressed to withstand its intellectual allure, but rather to raise the possibility of a unified conception of love as a question, and to bring this question to bear on Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love. Kierkegaard’s complex body of literature surely presents diverse discourses on love, such that it would not be unreasonable for readers to suppose that just as there are three spheres of existence illustrated throughout Kierkegaard’s writings (i.e., the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious), there are then three different kinds of love relating to these supposedly distinct spheres or stages. 71 Marion’s conception of love provides readers of Kierkegaard with the challenge to investigate the Dane’s writings and to look and see if there is a primary unified conception of love at play. An opening for this view appears in recent scholarship, such as M. Jamie Ferreira’s account in The Oxford Handbook of Kierkegaard that reads Kierkegaard as paradoxically affirming the view that “love is one yet many.” 72 Understanding whether Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love embraces the “univocacy of love” is thus a central concern of this work, and we shall see if perhaps the unity of love can be promoted more and the paradoxical less. The radical reduction that Marion describes as the erotic reduction provides us with a way to return to the experience of love itself and grasp the lived relation through its essential structural features. Kierkegaard, we know, was essentially concerned with lived relations of existence, the most important of which is love, as his writings repeatedly illustrate fragments of life from the perspectives of those still living and those still loving. Finding metaphysical approaches to questions such as the existence of God foolish, Kierkegaard instead may be read as expressing a phenomenological approach to questions of existence, the most important of which is “How do I become a



lover?” or “How should I love?” In a way similar to Marion’s approach to St. Augustine in his recent study, I would like to try to read Kierkegaard’s writings of love in a “nonmetaphysical mode . . . in a logic of radically phenomenological intent.” 73 In this attempt it will also be important to seek to avoid theological and theocentric conceptions that are difficult to untangle from metaphysical reflections, and thus I shall instead focus on reading Kierkegaard as understanding human beings as fundamentally “erocentric” and to read his view of Christian religious existence as essentially expressing a love-centered life. As Singer explains in The Nature of Love, “[Kierkegaard] writes book after book on the nature of love, and he then fills them with translucent, if not transparent, allusions to his own emotional state.” 74 Following this lead, we shall see how Kierkegaard’s philosophy is centered on the philosophy of love and its central questions. We shall see how the horizon of this question leads us from the philosophy of love to the phenomenology of love. As indicated above, Singer actually remarks that in his “work on love and sexuality” he tries “to map out the phenomenological blueprint of our affective being,” 75 and yet surprisingly it is difficult to see how Singer’s work is grounded phenomenologically. Be this as it may, I suggest that when considering Kierkegaard’s contribution to the philosophy of love, it is most fruitfully related to the phenomenology of love found in the works of Scheler, von Hildebrand, and Marion, other thinkers who clearly centered their writing on investigating the nature of love, and yet these relationships have not yet been explored in any sustained way. Unable to do justice to all of these possibly fruitful relationships, in the following work Kierkegaard’s thinking shall most frequently be brought into contact with Marion’s work, for by considering Marion’s erotic reduction in relation to Kierkegaard’s writings we shall be in a better position to ground what we can consider to be Kierkegaard’s phenomenological blueprint of the life of a lover. Thus, although my focus is not on providing a comprehensive account of the relationship between the views of Kierkegaard and Marion, I hope to add more weight and substance to the view that Kierkegaard “in some sense anticipates the phenomenological insights of Marion,” 76 while also suggesting in places how Marion’s analysis of the erotic phenomenon helps in our interpretation of Kierkegaard. Nussbaum and the Politics of Love A final glance at the contemporary landscape of the philosophy of love shows that the politics of love is also becoming increasingly important. As one example, Martha Nussbaum’s recent work, Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice, takes seriously the view that the only real solution to all our problems is love, as expressed by W. A. Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte in the opera The Marriage of Figaro. 77 Nussbaum argues that this


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opera—one that we can be reasonably sure “astounded” Kierkegaard and made him “humbly [bow] in admiration” 78—“should be regarded as a formative philosophical text in the unfolding debate about new forms of public culture.” 79 Although they may not agree in all the details of their interpretations of the opera, Kierkegaard and Nussbaum would both agree that “revolutionary changes in the heart” are needed in order to form a new person and a new order. Nussbaum’s recent work is focused on the social and political, while Kierkegaard’s writings more frequently focus on the single individual. This, however, does not entail that Kierkegaard’s philosophy—and especially his philosophy of love—is irrelevant for the political, although for the most part he has largely been ignored by political theorists. Although Kierkegaard appears as a marginalized figure in contemporary political theory, some interesting references to his philosophy within a context of the politics of love can be found, for example, in the work of Cornel West, Slavoj Žižek, 80 and Ann Mongoven. In Prophesy Deliverance!: An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity, West explains that “to prophesy deliverance is not to call for some otherworldly paradise but rather to generate enough faith, hope, and love to sustain the human possibility for more freedom,” 81 and on the next page he expresses his aim as wanting “to AfroAmericanize the profound insights of Kierkegaard’s critique of bourgeois Christendom.” 82 When West then develops his view on “Prophetic AfroAmerican Thought” later in his text he notes that his “viewpoint is informed primarily by the work of Søren Kierkegaard, William James, and John Dewey.” 83 In Just Love: Transforming Civic Virtue, Mongoven contextualizes her discussion as a contrast between two theologians, “eighteenth-century Anglican Bishop Joseph Butler and nineteenth-century Danish Lutheran theologian Søren Kierkegaard.” 84 Although readers may already be somewhat uneasy about this labelling, Mongoven presents us with a view of a Kierkegaard who “most clearly articulated the modern antagonistic conception of Christian neighbor love.” 85 Citing two passages from Works of Love Mongoven interprets “Kierkegaard’s conception of Christian Love” as being “defined over and against the home,” 86 and she takes his “rhetoric [as redefining] the challenge of Christian love: now a challenge of resistance to certain forms of love rather than an appropriate integration of all kinds of love.” 87 While it would be interesting to pursue an argument for Works of Love as Kierkegaard’s most political text, one would still have to consider this text more widely, as well as Kierkegaard’s other writings. Nevertheless, a view that pits one kind of love against other kinds appears problematic from the start, and thus we should not be readily inclined to follow this reading of Kierkegaard. Mongoven writes further:



If Christianity was uncomfortable with the accommodation to self-interest in the developing market realm, Kierkegaard responded by staunchly rejecting that self-interest while continuing to contrast it to the affection of private relations. Thus, instead of home affection balancing market rapaciousness, a view of totally disinterested love was contrasted to home affections. In contrast to the New England pastor who located love in the home, Kierkegaard gave love back its virility at the price of intimacy. 88

While it is true that Kierkegaard articulates a philosophy of love that is of the highest rank, a phenomenological reading of Kierkegaard’s writings will show that although Kierkegaard’s conception of love may be disinterested in the sense of rejecting self-interest, it is not detached from the home and not disinterested in the sense of being without interest for private relations and intimacy. 89 Thus, for this and related reasons, I suggest that grounding Kierkegaard’s view as a phenomenology of love should precede and thus clarify any later look at Kierkegaard and the politics of love. 90 I also suggest that in doing this we will find a view advocating the loving care of individual citizens to be held in common by both Kierkegaard and Mongoven. To return to Nussbaum, the goal of her work is cultivating appropriate political emotions in which love (or compassion, which she actually spends more time discussing) is key, and she sees this task as having “two aspects, the motivational and the institutional.” 91 The motivational aspect is also a major component of Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love, and it falls under the heading of “the edifying” or “the upbuilding” as mainly expressed through a series of upbuilding discourses, which have recently been considered “as providing the optimal perspective within which to consider the meaning of [Kierkegaard’s] authorship as a whole and therefore a basis for assessing his significance for our own time.” 92 Ultimately for Kierkegaard, “only love builds up,” and for there to be any edification love must be present: To build up is to presuppose love; to be loving is to presuppose love; only love builds up. To build up is to erect something from the ground up—but, spiritually, love is the ground of everything. No human being can place the ground of love in another person’s heart; yet love is the ground, and we can build up only from the ground up; therefore we can build up only by presupposing love. Take love away—then there is no one who builds up and no one who is built up. 93

The question, then, is this: How is this relevant for our culture today? The way that Nussbaum expresses her understanding of love could be said to be derived from her experience with what Kierkegaard would call “the immediate erotic.” 94 In other words, she learns the philosophy of love from Mozart. For Nussbaum love involves “saying ‘yes’ to the imperfection in all [our] lives.” 95 Here she explains her understanding of love more fully:


Chapter 1 At the end of The Marriage of Figaro, the Countess sets the tone for the new regime by saying yes to a plea for sympathy. “I am nicer, and I say yes.” A compassionate and generous attitude toward the frailties of human beings— prominently including oneself—is a linchpin of the public culture I am recommending here, closely linked to the comic spirit. The type of love embodied by the Countess’s generous “yes” involves flexibility, the willingness to give love and understanding priority over rigid norms. It requires pursuing admirable goals in such a way as to embrace women and men as they are, rather than hating what is imperfect. Her “yes” is a key to the type of political love that lies at the heart of this book. 96

Thus, for Nussbaum “Mozart envisages the new public love as something gentler, more reciprocal, more feminine—‘nicer,’ to use the Countess’s everyday word.” 97 The love that Nussbaum describes “embrace[s] perfection while striving for justice,” and it recognizes that “personal love and friendship are at their best when they are directed not at ideal images of the person, but, instead, at the whole person with flaws and faults (not, of course, without criticizing or arguing).” 98 Kierkegaard, too, learned a great deal from Mozart, and we shall see that in his study of Mozart and the immediate erotic, love presents itself as a surplus, an overabundance, which would be the immediate source of any affirmative “yes” in life. Kierkegaard also discusses the important point of loving the other just as he or she is, in all his or her imperfections, without focusing on a false image of the other. He does this directly in Works of Love in the discourse devoted to “Our Duty to Love the People We See.” A few key passages, italicized in his text, bring home this crucial point: 99 When this is the duty, the task is not to find the lovable object, but the task is to find the once given or chosen object—lovable, and to be able to continue to find him lovable no matter how he is changed. 100 When it is a duty to love the people we see, one must first and foremost give up all imaginary and exaggerated ideas about a dreamworld where the object of love should be sought and found—that is, one must become sober, gain actuality and truth by finding and remaining in the world of actuality as the task assigned to one. 101 When it is a duty to love the people we see, then in loving the actual individual person it is important that one does not substitute an imaginary idea of how we think or could wish that this person should be. The one who does this does not love the person he sees but again something unseen, his own idea or something similar. 102

Further parallels can be drawn between “a compassionate and generous attitude toward the frailties of human beings” and Kierkegaard’s repeated discourse on “love hides a multitude of sins,” a theme that occurs early in his



writings in 1843 and reappears in Works of Love in 1847. We shall examine these discourses in more detail below and find within them Kierkegaard’s performance of an erotic reduction that is much in line with Nussbaum’s identification of this life- and world-changing attitude. The erotic reduction, as Marion has shown, is a radical reduction, and Nussbaum also recognizes the radical difference that love makes. She writes: If I am right, however, Mozart sees the world rather differently, and more radically. . . . What would be truly opposed to the ancient régime would be not the democratization of bodies as interchangeable machines—but love. As Cherubino understands, this means seeking a good outside oneself, which is a scary idea. . . . What’s suggested here, then, is that democratic reciprocity needs love. Why? Why wouldn’t respect be enough? Well, respect is unstable unless love can be reinvented in a way that does not make people obsess all the time about hierarchy and status. 103

Just as Cherubino talks about love to everyone and everything at all times, 104 Kierkegaard never tires of writing about love, and he does so with a profundity beyond compare. Consequently, a study of Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love cannot help but develop our political understanding, even if his writing in large part avoids a direct and sustained reflection on the political. Nevertheless, the philosophy of love Kierkegaard promotes is one based on actual, everyday (if not every-moment) works, works that change the seemingly everyday and natural way that life is experienced—in short, works of love. Nussbaum, no doubt, concurs, as she expresses the need for “a great deal of work”: If, however, one follows Mozart’s version of Enlightenment politics, one will still see that the world as it is needs a great deal of work, and one will not stop aspiring to get that work done . . . . One will not stop seeking to educate young men to love music rather than the concerto of shells and cannons. One will, however, at the same time embrace real people—even men!—as they are, and one won’t stop loving them because they are (no doubt like myself) a mess. That, suggests the pause within the music, is a more hopeful direction, if not the only possible direction, for a workable conception of democratic political love. 105

Thus, we also find a political demand for love, although Nussbaum finds her stimulus in Mozart rather than philosophers, but we can surely not find any fault in that, especially when recalling these words from Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous Either/Or: “Immortal Mozart! You to whom I owe everything—to whom I owe that I lost my mind, that my soul was astounded . . . you to whom I owe that I did not go through life without encountering something that could shake me, you whom I thank because I did not die without having loved.” 106 On the whole, Nussbaum’s work provides an ex-


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citing new opening into the philosophy of love. With regard to Mozart, however, Kierkegaard would presumably want to ask about Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and how it might fit into Nussbaum’s discussion of love, for “anyone who wishes to see Mozart in his true immortal greatness must consider his Don Giovanni, in comparison with which everything is incidental, unimportant.” 107 And with regard to the concept of love, readers may desire that it be more fully developed. In considering Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love in the following pages we shall attempt to satisfy this desire; however, it is important to recognize from the start that “words and phrases and the inventions of language may be a mark of love, but that is uncertain.” 108 Consequently, we need to consider the irony involved in writing on love. WRITING ON LOVE Before focusing in earnest on Kierkegaard’s writings and his philosophy of love, it is necessary to consider the irony of love and the problem of language and, more specifically, writing. Ultimately, the central concern of this book involves promoting love, although we naturally recognize that reading, writing, and thinking about the subject do not necessarily touch the subject in its actuality as lived experience, and that none of these actions can ever fully capture that which is fundamentally boundless and inexpressible. 109 Kierkegaard knows as much, and thus when we approach the subject intellectually we must recognize the distance this involves. In considering first the irony of love, we begin with the negative—as Kierkegaard explains in his magisterial dissertation irony is “infinite absolute negativity” 110—and this involves acknowledging a lack at the start. When I meet the students in my Philosophy of Love course on the first day of class I tell them that I do not know for sure what love is, and I confess this to my readers here as well. I feel inadequate for the task of speaking about the philosophy of love, as if one could be a scholarly expert in such a powerful and profound subject. As Marion writes in the Prolegomena to Charity, “we live with love as if we knew what it was about. But as soon as we try to define it, or at least approach it with concepts, it draws away from us.” 111 Thus, it should not be surprising that I feel rather embarrassed by my feeble attempt to say or write what I understand about love and have learned about love from Kierkegaard and others. Some comfort can be found in the words of several scholars who have tried to address love. For example, in A Natural History of Love Diane Ackerman writes that “we are embarrassed by love,” 112 and Jean-Luc Nancy concurs in stating that “the topic is very embarrassing and difficult to engage.” 113 Further, in “a partial summing-up” of his Philosophy of Love, Irving Singer explains how in the work he has “untaken intellectually, [he] was motivated by anxieties, confusions, unresolved



ambivalences with [himself] as a human being and not merely as a thinker.” 114 Thus, we find that Singer makes “no pretensions about definite objectivity,” 115 which is surely a point that any reader with even the slightest sympathy for Kierkegaard’s philosophy of existence will also readily acknowledge. But perhaps readers will think that what is intended here about the irony of love is a cop out, an easy excuse to avoid risking any fundamental theses about the philosophy of love. Perhaps, but I would also suggest that what may be most important in the philosophy of love—or maybe in any philosophy whatsoever—is the questioning of the subject. Questioning its meanings and the relationships between the meanings put forth by various thinkers goes a long way and may affect one more than any supposedly definitive answers to the question. Moreover, could it not be the case that in taking irony seriously, as Kierkegaard no doubt does in his texts, we can thus be led to be ironic about the irony, and this doubly negative movement may be productive. After all, what if I am ironic about the irony of love—how would readers or students ever know?—and instead masked the positive view that love is actually ever present and the ultimate driving force of all human beings? Such is the view of Socrates, and his students Plato and Kierkegaard, the latter of whom ultimately shows that love builds up, makes us grow, transforms us into better beings. Thus, as in my earlier work Both/And: Reading Kierkegaard from Irony to Edification (1997), here too there is a dialectic between irony and edification. Writing is difficult. Writing about love is more difficult still. The problem of writing and all its intractable difficulty is expressed well in Pat Bigelow’s phenomenological study, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 116 and it is noteworthy that love figures prominently in this work. Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing is important for helping us to see that any writing on Kierkegaard that fails to take into account the irony of love (in short, that it is not what it is in writing, reading, and thinking) and the phenomenological problem of writing and instead attempts to communicate directly Kierkegaard’s meaning is at best problematic. At worst it is non(-)Kierkegaardian. Additionally, given that my analysis will focus on reading Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist of love and that Bigelow’s study contextualizes Kierkegaard’s problem within the phenomenological tradition, a brief consideration of this important work is not out of place here. Bigelow’s text concerns the limits of language and saying what cannot be said in writing; it is concerned with what Joyce refers to as “broken heaventalk,” 117 or what Bigelow calls “the other of meaning,” 118 “the unthought(-)of difference.” 119 Of course, such a concern is central to Kierkegaard’s writing, as Bigelow penetratingly argues. He begins: “The Kierkegaardian gambit: to say by unsaying and unsay by saying. In writing. This is the deconstructive force of


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Kierkegaard’s ‘indirect communication.’” 120 Kierkegaard may thus be read as the philosopher, the writer, who responds to the gambit and powerfully performs the act of saying the unsayable, of expressing the inexpressible, and as I have argued previously, the writings Kierkegaard signed with his own name, including Works of Love, can also be considered expressions of indirect communication. 121 While undoubtedly illuminating Kierkegaard’s relationship to postmodernism, 122 Bigelow’s work goes even further in very specifically aligning Kierkegaard’s writings with the phenomenological tradition and is therefore highly relevant to contemporary discussions of Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist. The introduction is entitled “The Phenomenology of Antiphenomenality,” and those phenomena treated by Bigelow in the text that resist expression in language and evince the problem of writing are silence, boredom, time, and difference. 123 To attempt to write about these phenomena “is simply to refer to that fact that one cannot write about them,” and it is “these phenomena that are treated so incisively in the Kierkegaardian text, for Kierkegaard’s genius consists precisely in his decisive sensitivity to the question of writing.” 124 Love, of course, is also treated incisively in Kierkegaard’s texts, and it too resists full expression and description in language. On the one hand, love itself (as well as its origin) is not something that can be directly seen or something that can be directly expressed in language. 125 On the other hand, and in seeming contrast to these antiphenomena, love may be the most saturated phenomenon that there is, one that overflows our experience such that we may never fully grasp it in its givenness. Perhaps this contrast would explain why it does not figure as centrally in Bigelow’s text, although it does nevertheless appear prominently. Because Bigelow’s central concern is to exhibit the problem of writing in all its fullness, he does not endeavor to carry out any straightforward comparison of Kierkegaard and any specific phenomenologists. Instead, in his writing about the Kierkegaardian gambit, Bigelow interweaves phenomenological analyses from Husserl, Heidegger, and Derrida, and for the most part these are developed relatively seamlessly, although readers may still wish for a more direct discussion of Kierkegaard and phenomenology, which I shall attempt to offer below. 126 In order to ground the discussion of the phenomenology of antiphenomenality, Bigelow begins with a lengthy analysis of Husserlian phenomenology, which focuses on the nature of reflection, intentionality, and consciousness (including time-consciousness), and he demonstrates a deep knowledge of Husserl’s unpublished manuscripts, as well as the published German works and English translations. A fundamental insight of prime importance here is that it is possible to be conscious of an “object meant in its absence,” to intend it “emptily,” and that this possibility “is the enabling condition for intending the object expressively, that is, in language.” 127 What is absent in



reflection (and language) for Kierkegaard is “the immediacy of the world shining forth.” 128 This, according to Bigelow, is Kierkegaard’s “one lone thought” 129 —that there is a radical “breach between reflection and immediacy,” 130 an insight Husserl realized only late in his life, but one that fundamentally conditions Kierkegaard’s writings. As Bigelow explains later, “the one lone thought of Kierkegaard is to seek out the trace of the completely other in the rupture of thinking from reality.” 131 Although not explicitly stated by Bigelow but surely performed throughout his text, an argument that follows from Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing is that ultimately any attempt at direct communication within Kierkegaard’s writings is doomed to failure. Thus, readers may wonder how Bigelow would respond to the supposed claims to direct communication within Kierkegaard’s veronymous writings and specifically Christian truth claims. Initially Bigelow may appear to offer readers no answer, as he ends his preface with this comment: “No doubt we will contest that this has something essential to do with Christianity. No doubt. But as is befitting, I leave this unsaid.” 132 Although Bigelow spends most of his time focused on Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous writings, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing is not limited to the study of these texts, but rather presents a point of view for all of Kierkegaard’s work as a writer. While Bigelow refers occasionally to several of Kierkegaard’s veronymous texts, he quite frequently cites from and discourses on Works of Love. These citations occur at highly significant places, thus suggesting that Works of Love (and by extension all of Kierkegaard’s writings) is also conditioned by the breach between language and immediacy. Consider, first, in chapter 1 where Bigelow raises the possibility of the ontology of writing. Here he protests that “surely there is some hidden connection between the maieutic practice of Works of Love and the feat or fact of writing,” 133 and he even suggests that “a unique theory of writing” is “intimated on every page of Works of Love.” 134 Then, at the end of the important chapter 4, where deliberations on repetition and time ultimately lead to a discourse on the eternal, Bigelow offers readers lengthy quotations from Works of Love. Finally and fittingly, Works of Love figures prominently at the end of Bigelow’s text, 135 and here readers may no doubt infer that the breach is expressed through “the concealed life of love” 136—a concealed source, which is thus experienced as sourcelessness. Bigelow writes: If to think truly is to leave unthought the unthought by getting leave from it to take leave of it, if to think truly is to own up to the sourcelessness of the thinker owning his thought as that which always is yet to be thought, then to think truly is to take up one’s existence and make of it Christianly works of love . . . . The essential characterization of love, then, is that the thinker, in


Chapter 1 thinking truly, renounces himself as the source for the resources of selfsameness and thereby comes into infinite indebtedness to the endearing nearness of sourcelessness. 137

These passages reveal the significance of Bigelow’s insights for our own investigation into Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of love. The breach is thus maintained, for as one performs works of love truly, one breaks with reflection and with one’s ego (one’s self) in the immediacy of loving. Thus, verily speaking, we cannot truly speak about love, that which essentially cannot be represented in language. 138 Instead, then, we shall speak of the “philosophy of love” and the “phenomenology of love,” while recognizing the limitations involved and still perhaps harboring the hope that it is possible for the words we use to point to something more that may also be recognized. A glance at Kierkegaard and the several philosophers of love presented throughout this introductory chapter yields many valuable questions: How should we love? What is the nature and concept of love? Is love one or many? Is love a passion or an action, an emotional state or a dynamic activity? How does love originate? Does love add value or discover value? What is the relationship between love and justice? Does love necessarily require an “other,” or is it possible to love oneself? How can we understand the love of God, that other Other, which is a question that asks both how to understand a God of love and this God’s love towards us and how to understand our love towards God? How can love be expressed in writing? These are undoubtedly important and complicated questions that require everything we can muster to answer them—our clearest reflection, our strongest willed actions, our devout patience, our humble silence, and our concentrated writing, which is infinitely indebted “to the endearing nearness of sourcelessness.” 139 But Kierkegaard’s fundamentally sound insights regarding the nature of finite existence and the problem of writing should remain in mente, and thus while answers to these questions will be developed, it is the actual working through these questions and the other questions to which they give rise that I hope ultimately constitutes the value of this work. NOTES 1. Quoted in Alain Badiou with Nicolas Truong, In Praise of Love, translated by Peter Bush (New York, NY: The New Press, 2012), 3. Translated slightly differently, this passage also appears in Alain Badiou, Plato’s Republic: A Dialogue in 16 Chapters, translated by Susan Spitzer (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2012), 168, and here the translator notes that this notion comes from Plato’s Symposium (362). Although seemingly apocryphal, Badiou’s “hyper-translation” nevertheless offers in my view a justifiable attribution to Plato, and the discussion of “Plato’s Conception of Love” below can be seen as providing evidence for this claim.



For a recent discussion of the relationship between the thought of Badiou and Kierkegaard see Michael O’Neill Burns, Kierkegaard and the Matter of Philosophy: A Fractured Dialectic (New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2015), 159-178. 2. Emmanuel Levinas, Entre Nous: Thinking-of-the-Other, translated by M. B. Smith and B. Harshav (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1998), 103. 3. Harry Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 31. 4. The introduction of Marion’s text is titled “The Silence of Love,” in The Erotic Phenomenon, translated by S. E. Lewis (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2007), 1, 3. 5. Badiou, In Praise of Love, 11. 6. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 6-8. 7. H. A. Wolfson makes this claim in Philo: Foundations of Religious Philosophy in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, vol. 2 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1948), chapter 14. See also Seymour Feldman’s “Introduction” to Baruch Spinoza, The Ethics, translated by Samuel Shirley (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1992), 5f. 8. This view continues today, and a suggestive indication of this can be found in a popular contemporary anthology of classic texts in modern philosophy. In Modern Philosophy: An Anthology of Primary Sources, edited by Roger Ariew and Eric Watkins (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2009), a textbook that emphasizes the presentation of many texts in their entirety, Spinoza’s Ethics is presented in an abridged form, with only parts 1 (mainly metaphysics), 2 (mainly epistemology), and 5 included. Excluded from this anthology are arguably the most important parts for Spinoza’s practical ethics, namely parts 3 and 4, which focus on the emotions and the role of love and nobility in achieving the life of freedom. 9. Clare Carlisle, “Baruch de Spinoza: Questioning Transcendence, Teleology, and Truth,” in Kierkegaard and the Renaissance and Modern Traditions, Tome 1: Philosophy, Kierkegaard Research: Sources, Reception and Resources, vol. 5, edited by Jon Stewart (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2009), 167-194. 10. After all, not included on this list is my article “The Ethics in Love in Kierkegaard and Spinoza and the Teleological Suspension of the Theological,” Philosophy Today 51.4 (2007): 438-446. 11. Søren Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967), 2240; 1:A 1. 12. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 202. 13. Citations of this work will be to G. H. R. Parkinson’s translation (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000) and will follow the standard style where “E” stands for the part of Ethics, “p” for proposition, “s” for scholium, and “c” for corollary. An earlier version of this section appears in my article “The Ethics of Love in Spinoza and Kierkegaard and the Teleological Suspension of the Theological.” 14. Spinoza, E3p13s. 15. Spinoza, E3p43. 16. Spinoza, E3p59s. 17. Spinoza, E5p32c. 18. Spinoza, E2p49s. 19. Spinoza, E4p37s1. 20. Spinoza, E3p13s. 21. Spinoza, E3p59s. 22. According to Marion, the denial of love’s rationality, together with the denial of its unity and primary, are the three decisions philosophy has made that must be inverted for a proper conception of love. See Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 4-5. 23. Spinoza, E4p46. 24. That is E3p43. 25. Spinoza, E4p46s. 26. For this insight I am indebted to Heather Ohaneson and her paper “Loved into Life: The Tacit Resolution of Despair in Kierkegaard’s Sickness unto Death,” which was presented at the Søren Kierkegaard Society session at the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division Meeting in December 2012.


Chapter 1

27. Spinoza, E4p73s. 28. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 29f. 29. According to George Pattison, Works of Love is “the central work in Kierkegaard’s entire authorship.” See Pattison’s “Foreword” to Kierkegaard’s Works of Love, translated by Howard and Edna Hong (New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 2009), p. ix. This edition includes the Hongs’ 1962 translation. 30. See Kierkegaard, The Point of View, 23. This echoes the view of Johannes Climacus in the Appendix to Concluding Unscientific Postscript who “does not give himself out to be a Christian,” but is solely concerned with “how I am to become a Christian.” Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 545. 31. Quoted in Giovanna Borradori, Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), 135. 32. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 224. 33. Søren Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Kierkegaard’s Writings V, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), 63. There are numerous references in this text, as well as Works of Love, to the eye and how it sees the other, and what it should and should not see. 34. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1962), 41. 35. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 61; see also Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 217. 36. Irving Singer, The Nature of Love, Vol. 1, Plato to Luther (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2009), xix. 37. bell hooks, All about Love: New Visions (New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 2000), x-xi. 38. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 469; Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers, I 641. 39. Irving Singer, The Nature of Love, Vol. 3, The Modern World (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2009), 38. 40. Singer, The Nature of Love, Vol. 3, The Modern World, 38. 41. Singer, The Nature of Love, Vol. 3, The Modern World, 45, see also 47. 42. Singer, The Nature of Love, Vol. 3, The Modern World, 48. 43. Irving Singer, Philosophy of Love: A Partial Summing-Up (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2009), xviii. 44. Singer, Philosophy of Love, xii. 45. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 14. 46. Singer, Philosophy of Love, xv. 47. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 15. 48. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 2. 49. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 12. 50. Most recently, Ulika Carlsson has argued for the view that Kierkegaard follows, rather than dismisses Plato. Her work focuses primarily on The Concept of Irony and Either/Or and also provides a new interpretation of the significance of Hegel’s work for understanding Kierkegaard. See Ulrika Carlsson, “Kierkegaard’s Phenomenology of Spirit,” European Journal of Philosophy, published online on July 7, 2014. 51. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 89. 52. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 52. 53. Singer, The Nature of Love, Vol. 3, The Modern World, xx. 54. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 55 55. Singer, The Nature of Love, Vol. 3, The Modern World, 128. 56. Singer, Philosophy of Love, xiii. 57. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 86. 58. Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit and Three Other Plays, translated by Stuart Gilbert (New York, NY: Vintage International, 1989), 45. 59. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 97. 60. Søren Kierkegaard, From the Papers of One Still Living, in Early Polemical Writings, Kierkegaard’s Writings I, translated by Julia Watkin (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009). See also Søren Kierkegaard, The Essential Kierkegaard, edited by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 16.



61. Dietrich Von Hildebrand, The Nature of Love, translated by John F. Crosby with John Henry Crosby (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press, 2009). 62. Max Scheler, Ordo Amoris, in Selected Philosophical Essays, translated by David R. Lachterman (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973). 63. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 76. 64. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, translated by Walter Kaufmann (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1974), 223. 65. See Friedrich Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche, edited and translated by Walter Kaufmann (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1982), 92. 66. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 58. 67. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 112. 68. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 53, my italics. 69. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 105. 70. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 4-5. 71. As I have argued previously, these stages, and consequently also any seemingly distinct conceptions of love, should not be thought of theoretically as rigid categories without interpenetration. See my Both/And: Reading Kierkegaard from Irony to Edification (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 1997), 136-137. 72. M. Jamie Ferreira, “Love,” The Oxford Handbook of Kierkegaard, edited by John Lippitt and George Pattison (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013), 329. 73. Jean-Luc Marion, In the Self’s Place: The Approach of St. Augustine, translated by Jeffrey L. Kosky (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), 10. 74. Singer, The Nature of Love, Vol. 3, The Modern World, 38. 75. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 58. 76. Pia Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” Kierkegaard Studies Yearbook, edited by Heiko Schulz, Jon Stewart, and Karl Verstrynge (2013): 304. 77. See Martha Nussbaum, Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2013), ix, where the following lines from The Marriage of Figaro are quoted: “This day of torment, of craziness, of foolishness—only love can make it end in happiness and joy.” 78. Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or: Part I, Kierkegaard’s Writings III, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987), 47. Even though this passage is from the papers of “A,” it seems to me to be uncontroversial to infer that Kierkegaard himself was a great admirer of Mozart’s work. 79. Nussbaum, Political Emotions, 18. 80. Of note here is Slavoj Žižek’s treatment of “Kierkegaard as a Hegelian” in The Parallax View (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2009), 75-85. See my discussion of the Hegelian conception of love below. 81. Cornel West, Prophesy Deliverance!: An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity, Anniversary Edition (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 6. 82. West, Prophesy Deliverance!, 7. 83. West, Prophesy Deliverance!, 167. 84. Ann Mongoven, Just Love: Transforming Civic Virtue (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 40. 85. Mongoven, Just Love, 41. 86. Mongoven, Just Love, 43. 87. Mongoven, Just Love, 43. 88. Mongoven, Just Love, 43. 89. It is interesting to note here the ambiguity surrounding the meaning of “disinterested,” and to contrast Mongoven’s view with Frankfurt’s, which identifies “disinterestedness” as one of the four essential characteristics of love. Oddly, however, as we shall see below, Frankfurt’s understanding of disinterestedness does not reject self-interest, as it is held to be a fundamental part of self-love, which he finds to be the purest form of love. See Frankurt, The Reasons of Love, 42, 79, 82.


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90. Most recently, in a provocative new study entitled Kierkegaard and the Matter of Philosophy: A Fractured Dialectic, Michael O’Neill Burns attempts to expose the “undervalued political potential” of Kierkegaard’s work while situating it both within the context of German idealism as well as “contemporary debates in European materialist philosophy” (191). Significantly, Burns concludes his study by identifying love as the final moment of Kierkegaard’s ontological structure. In a very brief closing section entitled “Love’s Work” Burns writes: “Love is not an abandonment of the attempt at a systematic account, but rather love is both the foundation and the goal of Kierkegaard’s philosophical and existential project” (189). Obviously, I fully concur with this view and see the present work as an attempt to provide a more comprehensive exploration of this all important foundation and goal in Kierkegaard’s philosophy. 91. Nussbaum, Political Emotions, 20. 92. George Pattison, Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Discourses: Philosophy, Literature, and Theology (London, UK: Routledge, 2002), 1. 93. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 224. 94. See “The Immediate Erotic Stages or the Musical Erotic,” in Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 45-135. 95. Nussbaum, Political Emotions, 50. 96. Nussbaum, Political Emotions, 22. 97. Nussbaum, Political Emotions, 30. 98. Nussbaum, Political Emotions, 393. 99. Those who fail to keep this point in mind ultimately fail to understand Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love. Although Kierkegaard develops a perspective that involves seeking out the common value of each individual in the concept of the neighbor, this occurs together with an appreciation of the distinctiveness of each person. 100. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 159. 101. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 161. Note the emphasis on “becoming sober” and “remaining in the world of actuality,” which can be contrasted with Morgoven’s interpretation of Kierkegaard’s view of love as “disinterested.” I would suggest that this attitude of sobriety expresses a heightened interest in the actual person one sees. 102. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 164. 103. Nussbaum, Political Emotions, 43. 104. “I talk about love when I’m awake, I talk about love in my dreams, I talk about it to the water, to the shadow, to the mountains, to the flowers, to the grass, to the fountains, to the echo, to the air, to the winds.” Quoted in Nussbaum, Political Emotions, 38-39. 105. Nussbaum, Political Emotions, 52-53. 106. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 49. 107. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 74. 108. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 11. 109. See Kierkegaard’s Preface to Works of Love. 110. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates, Kierkegaard’s Writings II, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 261. 111. Jean-Luc Marion, Prolegomena to Charity, translated by Stephen E. Lewis (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2002), 71. 112. Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of Love (New York, NY: Random House, Inc., 1994) xix. In her “Introduction: Love’s Vocabulary,” Ackerman also writes that “we are afraid to face love head-on” (xx), although this is obviously not the case for Kierkegaard, who does not appear in her work. Ackerman also asks, significantly, “why has there been so little research into love?” (xxii). 113. Jean-Luc Nancy, God, Justice, Love, Beauty: Four Little Dialogues, translated by Sarah Clift (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2011), 67. The reason Nancy gives for this embarrassing difficulty is this: “When I say ‘I love you,’ I am saying the most intimate thing, both for me and for the other person, because I am touching that person at his or her innermost” (67). 114. Irving Singer, Philosophy of Love, xvi.



115. Irving Singer, Philosophy of Love, xiii. 116. Perhaps this difficulty accounts for the limited attention Bigelow’s work has received. For example there are no published reviews of this work, so my review of Bigelow’s work in the forthcoming Kierkegaard Secondary Literature, vol. 18, tome 2, in Kierkegaard Research: Sources, Reception and Resources, edited by Jon Stewart (Ashgate Publishing) will be the first. 117. James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (New York, NY: Viking Press 1958), 261. Quoted in Pat Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing (Tallahassee: The Florida State University Press 1987), 103. 118. Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 208. 119. Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, chapter 5. 120. Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 3. 121. See Michael Strawser, “The Indirectness of Kierkegaard’s Signed Writings,” International Journal of Philosophical Studies vol. 3, no. 1 (March 1995): 73-90. 122. Bigelow’s text was published in the “Kierkegaard and Postmodernism” series, which had Mark C. Taylor (general editor), E. F. Kaelin, and Louis Mackey as its editorial board. 123. These “antiphenomena” are the subject matter of chapters 2 through 5, respectively. 124. Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 11. 125. See “Love’s Hidden Life and Its Recognizability by Its Fruits,” which is the first chapter of Kierkegaard’s Works of Love. 126. See chapter 4 below. 127. Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 19. 128. Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 55. 129. Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 53 and 58. 130. Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 56. 131. Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 95. 132. Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 8. 133. Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 65. 134. Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 65. 135. See Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 198-205, where the discussion focuses on Works of Love. 136. See the first chapter of Works of Love. 137. Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 201, 203. 138. See, again, Kierkegaard’s “Foreword” to Works of Love. 139. Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing, 203.

Chapter Two

Love’s Incitement

The love described here is that of irony, but irony is the negative in love; it is love’s incitement. —Kierkegaard 1 The conclusion [Socrates] comes to is actually the indefinable qualification of pure being: love is— —Kierkegaard 2

Does the philosophy of love appear in Kierkegaard’s early writings, and if so, what is the conception of love that he develops at this stage of his authorship? More specifically, can one detect an early conception of love found in Kierkegaard’s magisterial dissertation The Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates and how is this conception related to the Socratic or Platonic conception of love? This chapter will attempt to answer these and related questions while also exploring the important Platonic doctrine of love, 3 which Irving Singer has justifiably called “the most fertile and powerful single body of thought about love that anyone has ever created throughout Western civilization.” 4 Thus, the importance of the Platonic conception of love will be shown for both the philosophy of love in general as well as for understanding Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love. The question whether Kierkegaard embraces both a Platonic conception of love in The Concept of Irony and his later writings will be opened up for analysis, as well as the question of the relationship between the concepts of irony and love. Additionally, given that The Concept of Irony is arguably Kierkegaard’s most Hegelian work, we shall also consider the Hegelian conception of love and its relatedness to Kierkegaard’s developing philosophy of love. This will also serve the purpose of contributing to a more considered discussion of the phenomenology of love. 31


Chapter 2

TOWARDS A LIFE-VIEW OF LOVE Although love is not a central topic of discussion in From the Papers of One Still Living (1838), the first published work by “Kjerkegaard,” 5 what we find instead is the central theme of a live-view and the requirement that a person must have a life-view in order to exist in the true sense of the term. Already in this work we find Kierkegaard indicating that the love of God is a valid sort of life-view, and this is a view that he never abandons or contradicts in his later writings. Here is a key passage explaining how we are to understand a “life-view”: “For a life-view is more than a quintessence or a sum of propositions maintained in its early abstract neutrality; it is more than experience, which as such is always fragmentary. It is, namely, the transubstantiation of experience; it is an unshakable certainty in oneself won from all experience.” 6 This passage shows the central role that experience plays in the cultivation of a life-view. For even though a life-view is claimed to transubstantiate experience—which is to say it turns it into more than it is on its own—it could not be developed without a clear focus on experience in the first place. Consequently, it is not unreasonable to see here that Kierkegaard is thinking phenomenologically—for phenomenology is precisely the study of experience—and it is also reasonable to argue, as I do in this work, that love constitutes the life-view par excellence, as it is the force that most completely performs the transubstantiation of experience. Kierkegaard then offers readers a couple examples of a life-view. First, as an example of a worldly, humanistic life-view, he uses Stoicism, and as an example of a heavenly, religious life-view he uses Christianity and cites Romans 8:38-39 from the New Testament and the view that nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 7 Here, however, he is not concerned with explaining this life-view in itself and accounting for how it actually transubstantiates experience, for he is instead focused on rather polemically criticizing Hans-Christian Andersen for the lack of a lifeview in his novel Only a Fiddler. Perhaps polemics and love make for an uneasy combination, and thus for a more detailed explanation of how love may be seen as providing the transubstantiation of experience readers must turn to later writings, such as the early Upbuilding Discourses (1843), in which a most radical transubstantiation of experience can be found in love hiding a multitude of sins, and Works of Love (1847), which deepens this life-view in several additional and profound ways. These writings will be the focus of a later chapter, but now we shall see how The Concept of Irony may in an unobvious way provide an opening for projecting a life-view of love originating in irony.

Love’s Incitement


LOVE AND IRONY We should not be surprised to find that the philosophy of love is a key, although not central theme in Kierkegaard’s early magisterial dissertation The Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates (1841), especially when we regard Socrates as a master of erotics. As I have argued previously, 8 the significance of this work should not be overlooked for interpreting Kierkegaard’s work as an author, and within our present exploration into the philosophy of love it is no less significant. A consideration of this text clearly shows that Kierkegaard was intimately familiar with Socrates’s erotic philosophy, as reflected in the writings of Plato and others. Given the academic purpose of Kierkegaard’s text, it provides us with the richest references to his textual sources, and we know from an early passage in the text that Kierkegaard finds noteworthy Socrates’s claim in the Symposium that “the only thing he understands is ε͗ρωτιχά [love].” 9 In his “Introductory Observations” that appear to be directly intended for his section on Plato’s treatment of Socrates, Kierkegaard offers complicated reflections on the personality in relation to the race, in which Socrates is viewed as a primitive and original personality, one recognized by Plato as “an immediate conveyor of the divine.” 10 In a note to his text Kierkegaard writes that “this relation of the personality is a relation of love [Kjærlighed],” 11 a species of which is Socrates’s “pederasty,” which as Kierkegaard explains it, is not directed at the love of boys, but rather at the transformation from childhood to spiritual awakening. Thus, at least initially, we may view this conception of love as a relational transformative spirit within the individual. In further developing how the view of Socrates as irony becomes possible, Kierkegaard examines the presentation of Socrates in the writings of Xenophon, Plato, and Aristophanes. In the discussion of Plato, Kierkegaard considers the Symposium and he explains how Socrates’s method is guided by disengaging love from the “accidental concretions in which it appeared in the previous speeches” and leading it to its most abstract definition, which is that love is “desire, longing.” 12 But although Kierkegaard recognizes the truth of this, he explains that this is only one side, namely the negative one, of love. He writes: Now in a certain sense this is very true, but in addition love is also infinite love. When we say that God is love, we are saying that he is infinitely selfcommunicating; when we speak of continuing in love, we are speaking of participation in a fullness. This is the substance of love. The desiring and the longing are the negative in love, that is, the immanent negativity. Desire, want, longing, etc., are love’s infinite subjectivizing—to use a Hegelian expression that calls to mind precisely what must be called to mind here. 13


Chapter 2

Within this rich passage from the earliest stage of Kierkegaard’s writings we find a view of love that points towards a unified conception of love. While considering the ancient Greek view of love as personified by Socrates and expressed by Plato, Kierkegaard juxtaposes the Christian view that “God is love,” but he does not do so in a way that points towards alternative, competing conceptions of “eros” and “agape.” Instead, he is considering love (Kjærlighed) in a singular way with dualistic aspects—both of which are regarded as true. Suggesting something that has already been indicated with regard to love, namely that it is relational, Kierkegaard here expresses a view that he will hold throughout his writings. This singular, relational view is constituted by a dialectical element, which may or may not be considered paradoxical, although Kierkegaard does not write about the paradoxical here. The relational aspects of love are captured by a negativity that is understood as desire or want, and as Kierkegaard writes, this is rightly understood by Hegel’s expression “infinite subjectivizing.” Thus, on the one hand, this negative aspect of love involves the subject forever trying to find or actualize him- or herself, but, on the other hand— and perhaps here is where the paradoxical element begins to emerge—the self finds rest from his or her infinite subjectivizing when encountering the fullness through participating with the other. Kierkegaard continues: This definition is also the most abstract, or rather it is the abstract itself, not in the ontological sense but in the sense of what lacks content. . . . [Socrates] does not call the relationship [of love] back to the categories. His abstract is a totally empty designation. He starts with the concrete and arrives at the most abstract and there, where the investigation should begin, he stops. The conclusion he comes to is actually the indefinable qualification of pure being: love is— because the addendum, that it is longing, desire, is no definition, since it is merely a relation to a something that is not given. . . . But just as the abstract in the sense of the ontological has its validity in the speculative, so the abstract as the negative has its truth in the ironic. 14

The subject or self, then, on its own and as an abstract relation to that which is not given, is nothing. The self alone is negative and lacking content, and this we find expressed in Socrates’s continual search to know himself going unfulfilled. The self alone is no self, which corresponds nicely with the impossibility of self-love, which will be discussed in chapter 6. Although Kierkegaard has explained how Socrates arrives at an abstract view of love as the “indefinable qualification of pure being,” when commenting on the Symposium we find that in contrast to this view “love [is] exemplified in the person of Socrates.” 15 Thus, although the statement “love is Socrates” would not qualify as a definition, it does however express concretely the being of a person, which is what Alcibiades understands as love.

Love’s Incitement


Thus while the other speakers, like blindman’s buffs, groped for the idea, the drunken Alcibiades grasps it with immediate certainty. Furthermore, it must be noted that Alcibiades’ being intoxicated seems to suggest that only in an intensified immediacy is he secure in the love-relation that must have caused him in a sober state all the alarming and yet so sweet suspense of uncertainty. 16

From the point of view of the infinitely subjectivizing Socrates we remain in the negative immanency; however, the point of view of Alcibiades leads in reverse direction. The love that is “exemplified in the person of Socrates” emerges not because of Socrates directly, but because Alcibiades loves him. It is remarkable how this passage highlights love experienced as an “intensified immediacy”—in which Alcibiades’s drunkenness is read metaphorically, rather than as actual drunkenness—for this illuminates the nature of the erotic reduction through which love is known. Kierkegaard is thus providing us with a phenomenological account of Alcibiades’s love for Socrates, understanding this state as one in which love is grasped concretely with certainty and without self-regard. In this specific state, the lover, who must be seen as initiating the love-relation, nevertheless perceives the other, who is wholly other than an abstraction, as the embodiment of love itself. Kierkegaard continues to analyze this love-relation, and Alcibiades’s passion for Socrates is further illustrated metaphorically: “He is like someone bitten by a snake—indeed, he is bitten by something more painful and in the most painful place, namely in the heart or in the soul. That the love-relation that has come about between Socrates and Alcibiades was an intellectual relation scarcely needs mentioning.” 17 The painfulness of a snake bite in an unknown place understood metaphorically “in the heart or in the soul” fits with Kierkegaard’s view to show that “what we can learn about the nature of love” from Socrates and Alcibiades is negative. 18 For it is the desire or the longing, which seemingly goes unfulfilled by the higher, that is made the central focus here, and it is true enough that Socrates and Alcibiades do not participate in a mutual understanding of their love. Still, we can question the complete accuracy of this focus, for in Alcibiades’s advance we find a positive movement, and as Kierkegaard suggests in a later reflection, he may have been overlooking something about the Socratic relation. For in a journal entry from 1850 he considers himself foolish for not understanding how “great [an] ethicist Socrates was” 19 in his early dissertation. Indeed, for Kierkegaard, Socrates ultimately “emerges as a prototype of the Christian witness to love,” 20 thus further realizing a unified conception of love in his writings. For now, however, let us consider the source of this love-relation. As suggested above, it makes sense to consider the lover Alcibiades as initiating the “intensified immediacy” or erotic reduction, just as it makes sense to understand the drinker as initiating his drunkenness. But what about


Chapter 2

the lover Socrates, who surely plays a leading role in this affair? Clearly, we must fix our gaze in his direction in order to locate the source of love. When we do this we find that, as Kierkegaard understands it, the source of the loverelation is not Socrates himself, but what was “in” Socrates. “But if we ask what was in Socrates that made such a relation not merely possible but inevitable,” Kierkegaard writes, “I have no other answer than that is was Socrates’ irony.” 21 This raises a question; namely, what is the relationship between love and irony? And this question poses a problem, how can the negative aspect of love, which presumably is exemplified by Socrates as an abstract nothingness, 22 inevitably lead to the love-relation? It would seem that we cannot view the negative (irony, which as Kierkegaard defines it is “infinite absolute negativity”) as a basis for the love-relation, but rather as a veil through which the positive source of love is hidden. As Kierkegaard will explain later in Works of Love, this source is hidden, but it is believed, 23 and already in The Concept of Irony we find illustrated the hiddenness of love through the position of Socrates. Thus, understanding love negatively as desire necessarily presupposes the positive, but hidden source of love—and we will likely have to admit that only love can be the source of love—which is only grasped through the veil of irony. One of Kierkegaard’s fifteen theses appended to The Concept of Irony seems to suggest the priority of love over irony. Kierkegaard writes: “Irony is not so much apathy, devoid of the more tender emotions of the soul; instead, it must rather be regarded as vexation at the possession also by others of that which it desires for itself.” 24 In other words, irony desires, whereas love loves. In this regard, then, to claim as Kierkegaard does that “Socrates’ existence is irony” is to say that Socrates was nothing but desire, and to understand Socrates as a “master of erotics” is to understand that what he desires is love. Thus, when in his last thesis Kierkegaard claims that “a life that may be called human begins with irony,” 25 this can be taken as implying that the only life worth living, a human life, begins with a longing for love. But this longing is only the beginning, and it begins by opening a space for the fullness of love to manifest itself. Kierkegaard’s twofold goal in explaining Plato’s Symposium can be said to be in agreement with his whole dissertation: namely, to show that Socrates’s essential position is irony and that this position is negative. This goal is directly related to understanding the nature of love: “In regard to . . . the nature of love as embodied in Socrates, we shall by this presentation satisfy ourselves that theory and practice in him were in harmony. The love described here is that of irony, but irony is the negative in love; it is love’s incitement.” 26 In other words, irony stirs up love and calls forth action. Irony is not the foundation of love or its original cause, as that is hidden, but it incites that which is already present and helps make love break out. Kierke-

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gaard’s interpretation of Socrates here clings closely to Hegel as he holds that Socrates never develops the positive aspect of love, which within the Platonic context would be “the fullness of beauty,” 27 but of course this point is questionable, especially when we note that Kierkegaard later regards himself “a Hegelian fool” 28 for his failure to grasp Socrates’s greatness. Nevertheless, we must understand that the view of love put forth here involves a dialectical structure which projects both a negative and a positive moment. Kierkegaard makes a related point later when he comments on Socrates’s founding of dialectic as argued by Schleiermacher. For Kierkegaard this too is to be interpreted as entirely negative, such that “Socrates arrived at the idea of dialectic but did not have the dialectic of the idea.” 29 He continues: “Therefore, in the dichotomy in the Republic, where the dialectical appears, the good as the corresponding positive also appears; likewise in the dichotomy where love functions as the negative, the beautiful corresponds to it as the positive.” 30 Now, Kierkegaard’s view is that Socrates never actualizes the positive, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that he entirely lacks the positive, as Kierkegaard writes: “Now, it is certainly true that in this continual implied negativity, which is perpetually postulated and at the same time revoked, there is a rich and profound positivity the moment it has a chance to come to itself.” 31 Of course, if Socrates’s existence truly was irony, if the outer and the inner remain forever separated as Kierkegaard seems to suggest, then it is hard to see how we can claim that the lover Socrates never had a chance to come to himself and realize or actualize the rich and profound positivity of love. In addition to developing our understanding of the dialectical aspect of love, we can also see how this view of love, based as it is on Socrates and principally Plato’s writings on Socrates, is one which recognizes an ascent of love, such that love, which is conceived as one, nevertheless involves an upward ascent and a divine transcendence. The ascent of love found in Plato’s Symposium is well known, and here we find an early indication that Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love embarks on a comparable view. Thus, it is relevant to ask whether Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love remains largely within the Platonic view or whether it provides an alternative conception. Consider, for example, the ascent through the aesthetic and ethical spheres of love that is the focus of Either/Or and Stages on Life’s Way. The philosophy of love developed in these works also suggests a continuity of love and an ascent, such that aesthetic love is recognized as love, but without fully realizing the meaningful content and eternity that comes about through the ethical and the religious. So, we are not dealing with different kinds of love, but instead different moments in the progression of love. Already in The Concept of Irony the themes of the aesthetic and ethical moments of love


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are identified within the context of a discussion of Friedrich Schlegel’s “celebrated novel Lucinde,” 32 which can be regarded as a “catechism of love.” 33 Kierkegaard writes: Thereupon Schlegel has Julius, after withdrawing into solitude for a time, come in contact with social life again and in a more mental relation to several feminine members of this social life skim once again through several love affairs until he eventually finds in Lucinde the unity of all the separate elements, finds just as much sensuousness as brilliance. But inasmuch as this erotic liaison has no deeper foundation than a mental sensuousness, since it has no element of resignation—in other words, since it is no marriage, since it maintains the view that passivity and vegetating are perfection—here once again ethics [Sædelighed] is negated. Therefore, this love affair can acquire no content, in the deeper sense can have no history, and their diversions can be only the same en deux as Julius thought were the best to use in his solitude— namely, pondering what one or another brilliant lady would say or reply in this or that piquant situation. Thus it is a love without any real content, and the eternity so frequently talked about is nothing but what could be called the eternal moment of enjoyment, an infinity that is no infinity and as such is unpoetic. 34

There are several important reflections regarding the nature of love that can be developed from Kierkegaard’s criticism of Schlegel’s Lucinde. First, we find suggested that the love-relation has a foundation in sensuousness, but this is only the beginning. What is further needed is the “element of resignation,” which Kierkegaard clarifies by referring to marriage, although we may do well to wonder what exactly resignation entails for love. Here it is connected to the ethical and the view that “real love,” or love with “real content,” will have a history, which is to say it will be developed in time, and an eternity, which suggests that it continues throughout time, which is something that cannot be said of the moment of sensuous enjoyment. These points will be repeated almost identically when Judge William later explains “love’s dialectic” to the young aesthete in Either/Or. The only obvious point of difference to this is found in the last line quoted above. Here the suggestion is that a love-relation without an ethically qualified infinity is unpoetic, whereas Judge William will argue later that it is actually marriage or “marital love” that cannot be represented poetically. 35 This rich passage also raises the complicated question of the ethics of love—or of the relationship between ethics and love—as it suggests that real love is a decidedly ethical phenomenon, one that is marked by activity and not passivity. One may then wonder again about Socrates, who we can recognize—as Kierkegaard does—as the embodiment of both love and the ethical, although his “ethics,” his pursuit of virtue, negated the social norms of Athens. This suggests a higher ethics, and as we shall see, Kierkegaard’s Works of Love develops what has come to be known as the second ethics.

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In order for love to have real content, it must also be developed in the real world, and Kierkegaard criticizes the love affair of Julius and Lucinde “since this love does not belong in the real world at all but in an imaginary world where the lovers themselves are lords of the storms and hurricanes.” 36 The implication here is that love belongs in a world of risk and uncertainty, for abiding in an imaginary world without any true risk would hardly be a remarkable expression of love. It is only by abiding in the real world of real persons with real risks that the expression “love abides” 37 can have any force. Interestingly, this criticism against Schlegel could easily be applied to those so-called religious lovers who delight in the heavenly realm and divorce themselves from the real world. Granted, whether Kierkegaard himself is subject to this criticism is a question that can legitimately be raised, especially if one focuses on the point of view “Kierkegaard” develops later in which he identifies “the happy love of [his] unhappy and troubled life” as the “God-relationship.” 38 On this view God is Kierkegaard’s only lover, and Kierkegaard’s relation to the world is to be seen as one of appearance and “irony.” 39 This question needs to be deferred, however, for at least a couple reasons. First, given the goal to understand Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love and recognizing that this must be done through his writings alone, since his life as lived is inaccessible to us, we do well to avoid biographical views. Additionally, such views could also be avoided for potentially charitable reasons. Second, because we are interested in a phenomenology of love grounded in concrete lived existence-relations, the attempt to construct a phenomenology of the love of God is difficult, if not impossible, but this will nevertheless be considered in chapter 7. Within this context of love abiding within the real world Kierkegaard quotes a passage from Lucinde on the “religion of love”: “So is it that the religion of love weaves our love ever more closely and tightly together, just as the child, echolike, redoubles the happiness of its tender parents.” 40 This rather lovely passage is oddly—and as far as I can tell, inexplicably—read with derision by Kierkegaard. Why is this? What is the trouble with happiness derived from a tightly woven attachment between parent and child? In one of very few comments found in Kierkegaard’s writings addressing the parent-child love relation, he writes: “Frequently enough one meets parents who with foolish earnestness wish to see their children well settled as soon as possible, perhaps even well settled in the grave. In contrast, Julius and Lucinde prefer to keep them continually the same age as little Wilhelmine in order to derive amusement.” 41 While Kierkegaard explains the oddity of Lucinde to his readers, it is hard not to sense some oddity in his curt remarks here. Although there may be justification for the comment on Wilhelmine viewed through the egotistical eyes of her parents, it is unclear what to make of the comment on foolish parents. What does he mean by well settled, and why should parents not wish to see their children well settled? If by well


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settled marriage is intended, does this contradict Kierkegaard’s criticism of the love affair of Julius and Lucinde as being empty without the ethical? Moreover, it is interesting to note the point of redoubling here, for in Works of Love Kierkegaard will have much more to say about love’s redoubling, as he explains that “the concept ‘neighbor’ [“what thinkers call ‘the other’”] is actually the redoubling of your own self.” 42 What exactly is the problem with children redoubling their parents’ happiness through love, and could we not see the child as a redoubling of the parents’ own united self? Although Kierkegaard does not take us further in this consideration, it is not hard to see the arrival of a child in terms of the redoubling expressed in “the commandment’s as yourself,” 43 such that the child calls for the sacrifice of the self within self-love, which as Kierkegaard explains “unconditionally cannot endure . . . redoubling.” 44 Kierkegaard, of course, would never come to experience the love relation from a parent to a child, which is arguably one of the strongest love relations as perceived experientially, and this is also suggested theologically though the Christian idea of “God, our father.” Kierkegaard does, however, have a decidedly strong impression of fatherly love, as experienced through the perspective of a child in relation to his father. In fact, in “Selected Entries from Kierkegaard’s Journals and Papers Pertaining to The Concept of Irony,” we find a passage that strangely concerns being “well settled in the grave” while also identifying what Kierkegaard calls his “true Archimedean point.” In reflecting on his father’s childhood home on Sæding, Kierkegaard writes: What if I were to get sick and buried in the Sæding churchyard! What a strange idea! His last wish for me is fulfilled—is that actually to be the sum and substance of my life? In God’s name! Yet in relation to what I owed to him the task was not so insignificant. I learned from him what fatherly love is, and through this I gained a conception of divine fatherly love, the one single unshakable thing in life, the true Archimedean point. 45

This passage provides direct evidence that Kierkegaard’s conception of love begins in the home and in the most fundamental experience of the love relation between parent and child. 46 This suggests that we begin with concrete immediate experience and then ascend to a higher “divine” conception of love and not the other way around. Michael Kierkegaard’s wish for his son was that he would complete his university degree and settle down, 47 and Søren Kierkegaard’s deep desire concerned dwelling in fatherly love: “My father died on Wednesday (the 8th [1838]) at 2:00 A.M. I so deeply desired that he might have lived a few years more, and I regard his death as the last sacrifice of his love for me, because in dying he did not depart from me but he died for me, in order that something, if possible, might still come of me.” 48 Of course something did come of young Søren, whose desire and Archimedean point remained fixed through-

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out his life. In The Concept of Irony, Kierkegaard expresses the idea that irony must be governed by “a totality-view of the world,” 49 and although it has been pointed out that “Kierkegaard never defines this directly,” 50 it is reasonable to consider this as equivalent to a “life-view” as defined in From the Papers of One Still Living. The “total-life-view” that Kierkegaard desirously seeks is love. From the beginning of his writings—even before the start of the so-called authorship proper—Kierkegaard is a lover in search of love, and this is all the more reason for reading Kierkegaard as first and foremost a philosopher of love. Thus we should not be surprised to find on the last page of The Concept of Irony an expression of love. Here, in the section “Irony as a Controlled Element, the Truth of Irony,” Kierkegaard links together irony and love and explains what should be taken as his total-life-view. This view focuses on a sound love of actuality; it does not seek to reject or go beyond the world. Instead, it seeks to fill the world with love such that the world becomes a richer and more meaningful actuality. Kierkegaard writes: Irony as a controlled element manifests itself in its truth precisely by teaching how to actualize actuality, by placing the appropriate emphasis on actuality. In no way can this be interpreted as wanting to deify actuality in good St. Simon style or as denying that there is, or at least that there ought to be, a longing in every human being for something higher and more perfect. But this longing must not hollow out actuality; on the contrary, life’s content must become a genuine and meaningful element in the higher actuality whose fullness the soul craves. Actuality hereby acquires its validity, not as a purgatory . . . but as history in which consciousness successively matures, yet in such a way that salvation consists not in forgetting all this but in becoming present in it. Actuality, therefore, will not be rejected, and longing will be a sound and healthy love [en sund Kjærlighed], not a weak and sentimental sneaking out of the world. . . . Therefore actuality acquires its validity through action. 51

We can see here that on Kierkegaard’s view longing is directly connected to love, a healthy love that will find itself to be deeply immersed in all the finite complications that make up the world, as it works tirelessly to make them more perfect. In an interesting recent reading of this passage, Carl Hughes writes: “Kierkegaard asserts here that Christians ought to long for and even ‘crave’ ‘something higher and more perfect’ than that which is immediately present to them in this world.” 52 Moreover, “a healthy love is one that refuses all finite satisfactions, including those of Romantic literature; it is truly infinite eros.” 53 Here Hughes clearly views this infinite eros theologically, as he sees it as an “insatiable eros for God.” 54 But although Kierkegaard refers to “the higher actuality whose fullness the soul craves” and “salvation,” it is still the case that the emphasis in this passage is placed on love acting in the world.


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Consequently, it is not easy to understand how a love that “refuses all finite satisfactions” is related to a “sound and healthy love” that makes itself at home in the world by “becoming present” in it, rather than “sneaking out” of it. Consequently, a theological reading can be seen to conflict with one focused on the philosophy of love. Hughes also writes that “to allow oneself to be controlled by such a desire is to become like Alcibiades—gripped by a passion that is never satisfied.” 55 This connection to Alcibiades is interesting—especially as presented within a context calling Christians to desire God—and it resonates well with the analysis above. I would offer, however, that the key point here is not the lack of satisfaction, but the erotic reduction, which is to make the advance and remain within this loving reduction and find within the world—which from a phenomenological point of view is only conceivable through an encounter with another person, for the conception of the world is derived from the person 56—through a face-to-face encounter with another an overabundant fullness. For, ultimately, it is through the experience of this fullness that the healthiest love becomes manifest. If we can conceive an infinite eros beyond a theological conception, then we may see that the goal of our striving is to find within actuality itself the higher actuality of a world filled with love. How does this emerging philosophy of love relate to the Platonic conception? It has already been seen how the key elements of transcendence and ascent are present in Kierkegaard’s writings, although according to Hughes what he calls “Platonic-Hegelian eros” is distinguished by Kierkegaard from Socratic eros, in that the former reaches the positivity of “science and scholarship,” whereas the latter remains in negativity and a “purely personal life.” 57 The context in The Concept of Irony does not warrant conjoining Plato’s and Hegel’s philosophy of love, however, for it is Hegel’s view that is under discussion here, and whether Plato’s philosophy of love reaches the positivity of science and scholarship is largely undetermined. Further, as seen above, there is good reason to view this point as a Hegelian critique that Kierkegaard for the most part accepted at the time. Thus, given the content and direction of Kierkegaard’s early writing on love it is important to have a conception of Plato’s philosophy of love, so that we can then assess its relatedness to Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love. Although there is no small difficulty within scholarship on Plato’s writings to once and for all determine his view, a new study helps to illuminate the centrality of love in Plato’s entire philosophy. Let us consider this position now.

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PLATO’S CONCEPTION OF LOVE One can infer from an observation in Either/Or (attributed to Johannes in his well-known diary) that Kierkegaard considered Plato’s conception of love to be of the utmost importance: “These days, I have been continually preparing myself by reading the well-known passage in the Phaedrus about erotic love. It electrifies my whole being and is an excellent prelude. Plato really had knowledge of the erotic.” 58 Accordingly, when reflecting on Kierkegaard and the philosophy of love we cannot omit a consideration of Plato, whose writing on love expresses at least three vital features in common with Kierkegaard’s. To start with, both thinkers can be said to embrace fully the irony of love in their writing, such that determining a conception of love that clearly and unambiguously belongs to Plato is as difficult as determining Kierkegaard’s own conception on this and other matters. This stems, no doubt, from the irony of the lover Socrates, a master of “the art of love” 59 who figures centrally in both Plato’s and Kierkegaard’s writings, and the multiple personae involved in these thinkers’ rich and fertile writings, and it leads to an overall maieutic philosophy of love centered crucially on readers. Second, both Plato and Kierkegaard may be seen as affirming the primacy of love as understood as a spiritual task leading to the good. In other words, this ethics of love is first philosophy. More specifically with regard to Plato, it is arguable that a reading focused on the Symposium and Phaedrus, two works from Plato’s middle period that most directly engage the subject of love, yields an understanding of love as a spiritual task brought about by the desire of beauty and the good that leads one towards perfection, which involves finding beauty and the good in others and helping them to become better and ascend to greater heights. Third, the philosophy of love readers find in both Plato and Kierkegaard displays a significant tension between the abstract and the concrete, as both writers point towards a goal of loving the transcendent good or God, while they also provide accounts that embrace loving actual, unique individuals. Let us now consider some of the details of Plato’s view as it emerges from the Symposium and Phaedrus. Given that Plato nowhere states directly what his philosophy of love is, we have to make some hermeneutic leaps based on a close reading of his texts. Socrates, of course, is taken as a privileged interlocutor, although he never directly expresses a view of love as his own, but rather a view that he has learned from someone else, such as Diotima in the Symposium and Stesichorus in the Phaedrus. Be this as it may, the view Socrates appears to accept begins by equating love with desire 60 and conceptualizes love as spiritual force, a daimôn, 61 although not itself a God as held by the first three speakers in the Symposium. What love desires is “to possess the good for-


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ever,” 62 and the way to achieve this is to love others correctly, such that one sees the beautiful through them and ascends to the highest form of this beauty. 63 While we may forever question the possibility of grasping the form of beauty “itself by itself with itself,” 64 one thing remains clear for Plato and Socrates: the only way to embark on a life of love is through a close, face-toface encounter with an actual, concrete beloved. There is no other road to love than by getting close to another and being struck by the other’s “face as if by a lightning bolt,” 65 such that one will “gaze at [the other] with the reverence due to a god.” 66 Granted, Plato’s erotic dialogues point beyond the personal erotic encounter to a more ideal experience, but we do not necessarily have to follow Plato in this regard. Alcibiades’s speech in the Symposium, which questions the truth of Socrates’s words and thus establishes the dialogue’s perpetual motion, 67 is a constant reminder that love may be expressed through dedicating oneself to the unique individual encountered in one’s experience. Even in the closing of the second speech by Socrates in the Phaedrus we find him acknowledging that an actual love-relationship consummated and thoughtfully maintained throughout the lovers’ lives may be seen as “the sacred journey.” 68 As mentioned above, both Plato and Kierkegaard are united in that the philosophy of love is the central focus in their writings. Perhaps it may be objected, however, that this brief account of Plato’s philosophy of love offers only one relatively minor aspect of his many far-reaching writings. Why should the philosophy of love as expressed be seen as the key? To answer this question, we can turn to a compelling contemporary study of Plato’s philosophy. After a long “series of footnotes to Plato”—as Alfred North Whitehead famously characterizes the philosophical tradition 69—it seems we have remarkably only now learned that Plato is not to be read primarily as a philosopher of forms, but rather as a philosopher of love. A compelling case for this interpretation is found in Jill Gordon’s recent Plato’s Erotic World: From Cosmic Origins to Human Death (2012), which is long overdue and must be reckoned with by all readers of Plato, lovers of wisdom, and philosophers of love. As Gordon shows, there are many key characteristics to Plato’s erotic world that can be found throughout his dialogues, and she uniquely focuses on dialogues not usually considered erotic, thus demonstrating that the importance of eros is not limited to Plato’s so-called “erotic dialogues.” Instead, eros can be seen as the central driving force of all Plato’s writings, which together constitute an erotic world, and indeed of all human beings. In other words, our existence, which marks a transitional stage from pre-life to afterlife, is permeated by eros or “a desire for being and wholeness.” Thus Gordon presents readers with a Plato who holds a unified conception of love.

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The foundation for this “holistic depiction of eros” 70 is laid in the first chapter of Gordon’s work, “Cosmos,” which offers a new reading of Timaeus, one that “establishes the presence of eros in the demiurge’s original mixing of the human soul [and] portrays eros as crucial to human noetic activity.” 71 Here Gordon carefully analyzes key passages to show that contrary to the traditional view, reason (logos) is not the exclusive, divinely created part of the human soul, for it is eros that belongs to “our original and best condition.” 72 Although some readers will undoubtedly wonder how it makes sense to speak of the capacity of eros prior to embodiment, the practical significance of Gordon’s interpretation of the primacy of eros is no less clear, especially for philosophers who have historically viewed eros as a lesser capacity to be overcome in favor of rationality. Fortunately, Kierkegaard is not one of those philosophers, so this interpretation helps to bring the Platonic and the Kierkegaardian views closer together. Also of interest is that Gordon explains how eros should not be considered an emotion, at least if this suggests some lowly bodily desire, and for this reason she avoids using the English translation “love.” Although it would be impractical to follow suit in this study, Gordon’s point is a good one, and one with which Kierkegaard would likely concur—namely, we should understand eros as a divinely created fundamental human capacity needed to succeed in our lives. In other words, the only life worth living is one centered on love. Additionally, while Plato shows us that eros is the condition for seeking knowledge, this implies that the desire to know is more primordial than knowing, a point also to be recognized by Aristotle. This primacy of love stands at the forefront of Marion’s philosophy of love, for he writes that “we are, insofar as we come to know ourselves, always already caught within the tonality of an erotic disposition.” 73 Marion claims further that we are “revealed to [ourselves] by the originary and radical modality of the erotic.” 74 We are “defined neither by the logos, nor by the being within [us], but by this fact that [we] love.” 75 As a result, from a phenomenological perspective both metaphysics and epistemology are always derivative and follow the primary movement of love. On Gordon’s account, for Plato the noetic pursuit begins to unfold through the activity of questioning, and significantly “eros lies at the core of questioning.” 76 Cratylus is the primary focus of this analysis in chapter 2, and Gordon insightfully explains the etymological connections found among “eros,” “hero,” and “question.” We learn that a true hero for Plato is an eroticist with an interrogative disposition. This, of course, is best illustrated through the figure of Socrates, who claims in the Symposium that he only understands the art of erotics, playfully also calling to mind the art of questioning. The Socratic method is thus essentially erotic, and this has important consequences for philosophy. “Philosophical discourse, therefore, in the ab-


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sence of assured ideas, forms, or reality, cannot be assertoric but must be interrogative. The question and not the statement is the type of discourse that emerges from desire,” and “the definitive erotic logos is the question.” 77 It is perhaps without question that Kierkegaard is an eroticist with an interrogative disposition. Consider his well-known early journal entry from Gilleleie on August 1, 1835, and the extensive question that he raises: Of what use would it be to me to discover a so-called objective truth, to work through the philosophical systems so that I could, if asked, make critical judgments about them, could point out the fallacies in each system; of what use would it be to me to be able to develop a theory of state, getting details from various sources and combining them into a whole, and constructing a world I did not live in but merely held up for others to see; of what use would it be to me to be able to formulate the meaning of Christianity, to be able to explain many specific points—if it had no deeper meaning for me and for my life? 78

This weighty question forcefully expresses the desire for a total-life-view that is enacted and not merely known or grasped intellectually. It reveals the need for experience to be transfigured by the question and the pursuit. Even more well known are the sentences that precede this momentous question: What I really need is to get clear about what I am to do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find my purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth that is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. 79

“The crucial thing,” as I wish to suggest, the purpose, that is not “merely held up for others to see,” but must be experienced throughout one’s embodied life, is love. Enacting love calls for a particular and decisive intentional stance, an “inward action of the person,” 80 which, if we like, we can conceptualize phenomenologically as an erotic reduction or theologically as the “God-side of a person.” 81 Either way, young Kierkegaard is setting his course for the cultivation of a philosophy of love. To return to Gordon’s analysis of Plato’s erotic world, what this reading suggests, most importantly, is that because we are fundamentally erotic beings, we need to be well-matched to another so that we can cultivate ourselves with proper care and ultimately come to know ourselves. Gordon demonstrates this through a careful analysis of “the enchanting metaphor of the self-seeing eye” 82 and the characters of Socrates and Alcibiades. Significantly, on this account, the Delphic imperative to “Know Thyself” requires a relationship to the other.

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Having now seen our erotic beginning and the necessary steps in our erotic development, we are left to consider the erotic end of our journey, which for Plato involves a reunification with our divine origin. This is the topic of chapter 6, “Memory,” in which Gordon offers a new reading of Phaedo showing that “recollection is deeply embedded in erotic love” 83 and that memory is “a distinctly human quality that links us to noetic objects of erotic desire from which we are alienated.” 84 Ultimately, eros guides us homeward. Gordon’s work has undoubtedly profound consequences for the study and teaching of Plato’s writings. No longer can Plato be simply presented, whether in defense or attack, as a logocentric rationalist who denigrates the senses and the physical world. Plato, like Socrates, is first and foremost an eroticist, and although eros “is closely allied to the senses,” 85 it should not be confused with epithumia or bodily appetites. 86 Further, we gain fresh insight into how to interpret Plato’s famous metaphor for the soul in Phaedrus involving a charioteer holding the reins to two horses, 87 as well as “Socrates’ curious dying words to Crito,” 88 and the limitations of philosophy. 89 No, this is not your teacher’s Plato! As indicated above, Singer holds Plato’s philosophy of love to be the most momentous account developed in the Western world, and now we have perhaps the fullest proof of this in Gordon’s work. Although Singer remarks that Plato’s philosophy of love “is worth studying endlessly,” 90 he nevertheless rejects the Platonic doctrine. Thus, it would be especially interesting to see whether Plato’s erotic teaching can be defended today. In Plato’s Erotic World Gordon’s task is to show how eros is central to Plato’s philosophy, and she demonstrates this gracefully. Although beyond the scope of Gordon’s book, what readers would naturally desire to know next is whether Plato offers us the best philosophy of love. What do we gain in appropriating the erotic world of Plato (and Socrates), and how does his overall view stack up against other views, especially Kierkegaard’s? What are its advantages and disadvantages for the richest life of love? Should we accept the Platonic understanding of eros as basically negative—in that it is viewed as a lack we continually aspire to overcome—or can we find a positive fulfillment of eros in this life? Of course, as Gordon shows, asking these questions already situates one well within Plato’s erotic world, and as we have seen, Kierkegaard’s study of the concept of irony with constant reference to Socrates does so as well.


Chapter 2

HEGEL’S PHENOMENOLOGY OF LOVE Although the term “existentialism” postdates Kierkegaard’s work and is thus not part of Kierkegaard’s vocabulary, and “phenomenology” is rarely referred to directly, Kierkegaard is traditionally regarded as the father of existentialism and a precursor to the phenomenological tradition. Obviously, since Kierkegaard was a careful student of Hegel’s writings and on many accounts wrote in order to remove the cloud of Hegelianism that so dominated the academic climate of his day, he was well acquainted with Hegel’s phenomenological approach. Thus we must now turn to Hegel to consider the phenomenology of love that would have served as a backdrop for Kierkegaard’s deliberations. Kierkegaard’s personal library included a copy of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (1832), so despite the fact that Kierkegaard does not refer directly to this work in his writings, we can reasonably infer that he was familiar with its contents. David West goes as far as claiming that “Kierkegaard judged the approach of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit to be promising,” although Kierkegaard “believed that Hegel had incorrectly applied this approach to insoluble theoretical problems of epistemology and metaphysics.” 91 Instead, Kierkegaard offers “a radical challenge to the ideal of objective theoretical knowledge” by more properly emphasizing “the ‘phenomenological’ perspective of the subject’s conscious experience” and applying it to “questions concerning human life, its meaning and conduct.” 92 On this view, then, not only does Kierkegaard belong within the phenomenological tradition, but he advances the tradition by showing which questions are more appropriately dealt with phenomenologically, and for Kierkegaard, I suggest, the central question in this regard is “How should I love?” Just as Hegel moves from objective spirit to subjective spirit to absolute spirit in his Phenomenology of Spirit, it does not seem to be far-fetched to consider Kierkegaard as providing a comparable phenomenology of spirit that progresses through love manifested and qualified aesthetically, ethically, and religiously, although it is not presented in “the ordered, systematic and reasoned discourse of conventional philosophy.” 93 Hegel’s philosophy, as well as Plato’s, views the individual as ascending through qualitatively different experiences. In other words, it marks an ascent of love, and thus it is not surprising that the philosophy of love they express has been referred to as a “Platonic-Hegelian eros,” 94 although this has been seen as sharply contrasting the Socratic-Kierkegaardian eros, which focuses on the subjective individual, rather than the acquisition of objective knowledge. As suggested in the previous section, the pervasiveness and depth of what may be referred to as Platonic eros has been long overlooked, thus making a Socratic-Platonic-

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Kierkegaardian eros focused on an ascent of love much more feasible. But what about Hegel? What about his philosophy of love and its relationship to Kierkegaard’s developing view? Although love appears in Hegel’s revolutionary Phenomenology of Spirit, which we shall look at shortly, it is generally viewed as playing a relatively minor role in Hegel’s grand philosophical venture, and this alone provides a pointed contrast to both Plato and Kierkegaard, for whom love is the central issue in their multiple writings and loving is taken to be the primary human activity. Notwithstanding that the secondary literature surrounding the relationship between Hegel and Kierkegaard is vast, the focus on the phenomenology of love is very limited. In general, Kierkegaard studies have also seen a change in the way the relationship has been viewed, as the view that the thought of Hegel and Kierkegaard are diametrically opposed is no longer as dominant as it had been in the past. Let us consider a few key sources. In an early article entitled “Love and Forms of Spirit: Kierkegaard vs. Hegel,” Mark C. Taylor offers an important view suggesting that Hegel is anything but a loveless, bloodless philosopher of the absolute spirit, but instead his work is claimed to express a phenomenology of love. Considering the relationship between Kierkegaard and Hegel on the issue of love, Taylor acknowledges that “love plays an extraordinarily important role in the thought of these two seminal thinkers,” 95 and he considers their thought in the context of the Christian tradition and in relationship to the path towards selfhood including a reflection on their personal lives and the institution of marriage. Taylor rightly recognizes that “the significance of love for Hegel’s philosophy is less evident and is less often recognized,” 96 and he begins his analysis with a reading of Hegel’s Early Theological Writings (Frühe Schriften). Here Hegel identifies Christianity as the religion of “absolute reconciliation” in contrast to Judaism and Kantian morality, and Taylor explains that this “extraordinary revolution in Hegel’s thought grows out of his discovery of the importance of the phenomenon of love.” 97 Taylor then shows how Hegel’s understanding of love is influenced by Friedrich Hölderlin, who as explained by Taylor holds the following views with regard to love: Love is the means by which the contradictions of the self’s striving are resolved. Love effects the unification of the yearning for infinitude and involvement in finitude. Love is the principle of unification that integrates the personality and reconciles self and other, or subject and object, by disclosing their common ground. 98


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Through this view of the phenomenon of love Hegel comes to see that Christianity “is not a religion of morality, but ‘is raised above morality.’” 99 In other words, when love is the center of human experience, then one is not attuned to the legalistic focus of moral obedience, but rather to the beloved alone. For Hegel: “Love overcomes self-alienation and brings self-integration by reconciling inclination and obligation. For the lover, desire and duty do not oppose one another. The lover wants to fill his obligation to the beloved.” 100 In addition to viewing the phenomenon of love as a principle of unification, Hegel also holds that love is “inherently social,” and this leads to the conclusion that “the reconciliation of the self with itself arises through or is mediated by the reconciliation of self and other.” 101 Taylor quotes Jean Hyppolite, who writes: “Love is the miracle through which two become one without, however, completely suppressing the duality. Love goes beyond the categories of objectivity and makes the essence of life actually real by preserving difference within union.” 102 Thus, as Hegel sees it, love is a unifying relationship that “excludes all opposition, and neither restricts nor is restricted, it is not finite at all.” 103 The love-relationship is essential for genuine self-realization, and through this relationship there is direct participation with the divine, such that Hegel can be read as offering a nice explanation of 1 John 4:16: “God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.” As Taylor explains, the understanding of love identified early in Hegel’s writings is retained throughout his later works: “the structure of the love relation is homologous with what Hegel later calls ‘life’ and finally identifies as ‘spirit.’” 104 For each of these terms, the emphasis is on lived social experiences in a community, and the family is particularly important in the mind’s development understood as love. So far, so good, it would seem, unless one perhaps harbors resentment towards the family. On Hegel’s account, love involves genuine self-development, transformation, and unification with the other. One becomes transubstantiated through a recognition of the other, which theologians call the neighbor, one in which a common ground—or as Kierkegaard will later call it, a “common watermark” 105—is found and a unification is thus experienced. Nevertheless, given the subtitle of his article, “Kierkegaard vs. Hegel,” Taylor can be seen as expressing, at least to some degree, what has become “the standard view of Kierkegaard’s relation to Hegel,” 106 one that still continues to be expressed today. This view basically sees Kierkegaard as harboring hatefulness toward Hegel’s philosophy and writing to oppose it at every turn. When Taylor turns his attention to Kierkegaard he opens the section on Kierkegaard by writing:

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Kierkegaard is highly critical of Hegel’s view of the nature of love and of his interpretation of the relationship between love and faith. Throughout his extensive authorship and in his revealing Journals, Kierkegaard relentlessly probes the phenomenon of love in an effort to develop an alternative to the position proposed by Hegel. 107

This opening prompts some initial worries. First, given that the key elements of Hegel’s view of the nature of love are that it is unifying, infinite, divine, and social, we may be justly concerned over what one would find hatefully disagreeable in such a view. Second, Taylor’s second sentence seems to suggest that Kierkegaard is prompted to investigate the phenomenon of love not from an affirmative valuation of the worth of love, but rather primarily as a negative reaction to Hegel’s view, and these movements are clearly quite distinct. According to Taylor, Kierkegaard offers a complex and diverse “analysis of love” that yields “no single interpretation of love,” 108 so Taylor suggests that focusing on Stages on Life’s Way, which he identifies as “the only single work in which [Kierkegaard] discusses all three forms of existence” is appropriate for his study. Given this justification, we can see that the pseudonymously constructed theory of the three stages of existence is interpretively considered as primary to understanding Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love. Thus, we can expect to find sharply different expressions of love from the multiple characters involved. For example, “In Vino Veritas” models Plato’s Symposium in that each participant offers a speech on love. Here, according to Taylor, Johannes, the so-called seducer from Either/Or, “plays a role Socrates had assumed for Plato.” 109 For Johannes “there is a categorical imperative: Enjoy thyself.” 110 As Taylor explains: Johannes’ account of the careful intrigue by which he seduces Cordelia testifies to his incessant quest for interesting erotic situations. To maximize pleasure, one must seek a plurality or erotic encounters, and must never allow oneself to become bound to a single relationship. For this reason love can exist properly only outside marriage. “By means of marriage,” Johannes maintains, “the Gods conquer.” 111 By immersing one in triviality, domesticity smothers love. 112

Carrying over the dialectical relationship developed in Either/Or, Judge William responds by insisting “that love comes to complete expression only in the marital relationship,” 113 and he even echoes Hegel in asserting that “the highest telos of individual human existence” 114 is marriage. “From this perspective, marital love is the most complete form of human interrelation, and therefore it is the fullest actualization of selfhood.” 115 Taylor continues:


Chapter 2 A final factor must be added to complete our picture of the ethical view of love. Judge William maintains that “in the resolution the lover would put himself in relationship with God through the universal.” 116 By means of love one is related not only to another person, but also to God. . . . At the ethical stage of existence, love simultaneously effects reconciliation of the self with itself, with the other, and with God. In other words, Kierkegaard’s ethical form of existence bears a remarkable similarity to important features of the Hegelian notion of selfhood. . . . [T]he ethicist believes that love establishes a harmonious equilibrium among aesthetic, ethical, and religious dimensions of experience. 117

Although explaining the “remarkable similarity” that appears in Hegel’s and Kierkegaard’s writing on what can be taken as a unified conception of love, Taylor nevertheless notes that “this is not to say that the ethical stage is identical with Hegel’s position.” 118 The difference, we find, appears in “‘Guilty?’/‘Not-Guilty,’” which Taylor claims to be “the most painfully autobiographical work of [Kierkegaard’s] pseudonymous authorship,” 119 although we may well wonder how this claim could ever be demonstrated. Nevertheless, here is where we are guided to understand the “versus” in the subtitle “Kierkegaard vs. Hegel,” for it is here that Taylor suggests that “Kierkegaard’s differences from Hegel become altogether apparent, and the distinctive features of his view of love and selfhood emerge clearly.” 120 Taylor explains: “for Quidam, faith in God and love of other persons are not identical, but are distinguished in such a way that a conflict between them not only is possible, but becomes actual.” 121 On this reading, then, Kierkegaard is claiming that faith is greater than love, and that love is to be sacrificed for faith. Perhaps such is the reading that we get when Stages on Life’s Way alone is taken to express Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love. In characterizing the religious stage of existence, Taylor suggests that for Kierkegaard “obligation to God and love of neighbor remain distinct,” such that “human fulfillment does not come simply by means of association with other selves, but arises as the result of the faithful relation between an individual and the transcendent God.” 122 Here Taylor cites Kierkegaard’s journal for support: “Christianity does not join men together—no, it separates them—in order to unite every single individual with God. And when a person has become such that he can belong to God, he has died away from that which joins men.” 123 This is a disturbing thought—not only for Taylor’s account, but for Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love—as one can readily see how such thinking could lead to division and a metaphysics of violence, as Levinas will argue. 124 It also shows quite palpably, but unfortunately, what happens when a theological view takes the forefront, and this is all the more reason to at the very least suspend or bracket the theological and focus instead on the phenomenology of love, as we are trying to do here. Taylor goes on to explain, wrongly I think, that for Kierkegaard “love is not faith,”

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and that “faith surpasses love.” 125 But this account fails to consider directly the implications of Works of Love, which can justifiably be read as Kierkegaard’s most central text on love, if not his entire authorship, as George Pattison, rightly I think, has argued. 126 This is not to say that Kierkegaard’s other writings on love are unimportant, and clearly this work seeks to understand the multiple expressions of love throughout Kierkegaard’s body of work. But Works of Love has as its major concern the attempt to communicate and enact a practice of love for its readers. Its two divisions explore love, which is of course situated within a Christian context, in many of its aspects and in its central purpose—which is to act on behalf of the neighbor, “what philosophers would call the other,” 127 whether living or dead, beggar or king, male or female. 128 Although focusing primarily on Stages on Life’s Way and Fear and Trembling, Taylor does cite Works of Love in one paragraph as an example of uniquely religious love. He explains the terminological distinctions between Kælighed and Elskov, which are read as equivalent to agape and eros respectively. In a puzzling passage Taylor writes: Having recognized the fundamental features of “Kærlighed,” the religious person maintains that any form of love essential to one’s self-completion (as is the case in Hegel’s interpretation of love) is not love of the other person, but really is self-love. In Nygren’s terms, Kierkegaard would insist that Hegel never advances from “eros” to “agape.” Only if the self is complete apart from the love relation can self-love be overcome and genuine love be reached. 129

There are some serious problems here. First, as we shall see in more detail below, it is problematic to read Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love through Nygren’s later distinctions. Second, the idea of “self-completion” is problematic when we consider that the emphasis in Works of Love is on self-denial, and it is an odd idea that the self needs to be complete apart from the love relation in order for there to be genuine love. As we shall see, love’s immediacy shows how essential the other person in the flesh is for love, and a close look at Works of Love shows how essential the love of the other person is for love’s intentionality. Thus, despite the general misguided nature of Knud Ejler Løgstrup’s attack of Works of Love, his criticism that Kierkegaard gives us “a brilliantly thought out system of safeguards against being forced into a close relationship with other people” 130 would seem to apply to the view that Taylor advances here. Today we recognize all the more painfully how troublesome a thought it is that “the self is actualized most completely in isolation from other selves and in relation to a transcendent God.” 131 To see this as Kierkegaard’s view also problematically assumes that Kierkegaard knew what self-actualization was while he was in the process of existing, of becoming, of perhaps—or perhaps not—actualizing his “self.” As we understand from existential and


Chapter 2

hermeneutic thought, which is rightly read as indebted to Kierkegaard’s writings, a person in media res cannot have a complete and final view of what it means to be a self. Another significant and interesting aspect of Kierkegaard’s writings is that while the pseudonymous works generally emphasize the importance of becoming a self, the veronymous writings—especially Works of Love and the Edifying Discourses—move away from the self and emphasize the relation to the other. Or, if we wish to retain the problematic notion of “self,” then it could be said that we move in the direction of a “deeper self” (a God-self?) that is conceived as shining through the dissimilarities and held in common with all others. To call this a “self” seems curious indeed. 132 Taylor’s concluding remarks focus more on the philosophy of selfhood than they do on the philosophy of love. As he sees it, Hegel’s understanding of the self is fundamentally social, whereas Kierkegaard’s is fundamentally non-social and places faith above love, or grounds love in faith, apparently forgetting 1 Corinthians 13:13, which reads: “Three things will last forever— faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 133 As we shall see, following this New Testament view and also Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love, love is primary, and it is more evidently the case that faith is grounded in love, and not the opposite. In Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, he “argues that being-for-self necessarily involves being-for-other,” 134 and given our advancing understanding today of embodied cognition it is hard to refute the claim that “individuality cannot be defined apart from its relation to otherness.” 135 Taylor reads Kierkegaard as radically opposed to this Hegelian idea as he is instead seen as advocating for an isolated individuality structured by a faithful relation to God, such that love is derivative of this relation. Although it is impossible to conceive an isolated individual separated from all relations to others, what this would seemingly amount to is that Kierkegaard conceives the being-forself relation as supreme, and the skeptic may very well be justified in viewing a relation to God without any connection of other selves as a heightened expression of self-love, which is something that Kierkegaard forcefully condemns in Works of Love. I would like to suggest that rather than disagreeing with Hegel’s view that being-for-self involves being-for-others, Kierkegaard actually extends this view dialectically such that being-for-others involves being-(away)from-self. Whether this can be interpreted theologically as being-for-God is beyond the scope of a phenomenology of love and cannot ultimately be known. What is also important in Hegel’s philosophy of love is that he is clear about the significance of the family for understanding love, which is something that cannot be said about Kierkegaard, although we have seen the significance of the child-parent relationship for his understanding of divine love. In Philosophy of Right Hegel opens the sub-section on “The Family” by

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writing: “The family, as the immediate substantiality of mind, is specifically characterized by love, which is mind’s feeling of its own unity.” 136 Hence, the family transcends the individual mind and through love creates a feeling of unity. Hegel then goes on to discuss how “the family is completed in these three phases”: marriage, family property and capital, and the education of children and the dissolution of the family. 137 For Hegel marriage is “the immediate type of ethical relationship” in which the couple, which is to say a duality, moves through the physical, “natural sexual union . . . into a union on the level of the mind, into self-conscious love.” 138 The end of marriage, which is an ethical duty for free persons, “is a union of mutual love.” 139 Hegel explains that “the ethical aspect of marriage consists in the parties’ consciousness of this unity as their substantive aim, and so in their love, trust, and common sharing of their entire existence as individuals.” 140 Hegel continues: “As a result, the sensuous moment, the one proper to physical life, is put into its place as something only consequential and accidental, belonging to the external embodiment of the ethical bond, which indeed can subsist exclusively in reciprocal love and support.” 141 What has Hegel taught us about love thus far? On the one hand, he has identified love as the result of marriage, a self-conscious feeling of union, but on the other hand, love may be taken to be the force that transforms the natural and distinct persons into a minded spiritual union. As translator T. M. Knox notes: “Love is reason implicit and this spiritual union is thus union of mind with mind.” 142 Love forms the union in its ethical aspect and generates the accompanying consciousness of a bond. For Hegel, “a marriage brings into being a new family . . . [which] is based on love of an ethical type.” 143 While Judge William fully agrees that through marriage love is qualified ethically, he does not go as far as Hegel in the discussion of the family and how love is thus extended. Hegel writes: In substance marriage is a unity, though only a unity of inwardness or disposition; in outward existence, however, the unity is sundered in the two parties. It is only in the children that the unity itself exists externally, objectively, and explicitly as a unity, because the parents love the children as their love, as the embodiment of their own substance. 144

This quotation resonates with Marion’s phenomenological elucidation of the child as that which manifests to others the erotic reduction of the lovers who create the child. Through the arrival of the child, a third party, the erotic reduction, which previously had been maintained in inwardness, now becomes the visible embodiment of the lovers own substance, which is to say their love. As Marion explains, the child renders the lovers “themselves vis-


Chapter 2

ible to themselves, beyond or despite their own intermittences.” 145 Thus, according to Marion, “the child [is] an unconditional demand of the erotic reduction,” 146 and the reasons for this he explains thus: First, the passage to the child does not result from a biological or social law, but from a phenomenological requirement: re-production is not first of all or even essentially a matter of maintaining the species, reinforcing the community, or enlarging the family . . . ; this process retains its legitimacy and its role, but comes under sociology. By contrast, according to phenomenology, the passage to the child has the function of producing a more stable visibility or the erotic phenomenon already accomplished by the oath and repeated by enjoyment, and thus of assuring the visibility of the lovers, as it is present and to come. . . . The child appears as their first mirror, in which they contemplate their first common visibility, since this flesh, even if they do not experience it in common, has nevertheless put these two fleshes in common. 147

Marion goes on to explain how this phenomenological requirement of the child needs to “be understood as the possibility of the child more than as its actuality,” 148 which thus explains any difficulty in this account when lovers fail in actuality to produce a child. At the end of the sub-section on marriage in Philosophy of Right Hegel writes: “Love, the ethical moment in marriage, is by its very nature a feeling for actual living individuals, not for an abstraction.” 149 It is true that Kierkegaard, who has been wrongly attacked for emphasizing the love of an abstraction, has very little to say about the family. Nevertheless, when explaining the edification that is an essential characteristic of love—“wherever upbuilding is, there is love, and wherever love is, there is upbuilding” 150—his examples include concrete, domestic family episodes, such that he cannot be justifiably charged with overlooking the significance of immediate family relations. Consider this initial example: [W]hen we see a solitary person managing by commendable frugality to get along thriftily with little, we honor and praise him, we are cheered, and we are confirmed in the good by this sight, but we do not actually say that it is an upbuilding sight. When, however, we see how a housewife, one who has many to care for, by means of frugality and wise thriftiness lovingly knows how to confer a blessing on the little so that there still is enough for all, we say that this is an upbuilding sight. The upbuilding consists in this, that we see the housewife’s loving solicitude [kjerlige Omsorg] at the same time as we see the frugality and thrift, which we honor. 151

What is first remarkable about this brief passage is that Kierkegaard, known commonly as a proponent of the category of “that single individual,” expresses here the impossibility of a solitary person, when considered alone and without any relations to others, to manifest the upbuilding and thus love,

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which is the ground of the upbuilding. For this reason it must be taken as a guiding principle for Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love that a relation to another person is required. As he explains later in the discourse “Love Builds Up,” “love is not a being-for-itself quality but a quality by which or in which you are for others.” 152 In other words, as expressed above, love is relational, and does not become expressed without a relation between or among individuals. Second, the fact that Kierkegaard considers a common housewife as an exemplar of the upbuilding also shows that one cannot in good faith attack him for rejecting domestic life. This point becomes even clearer through the next example: When we see a large family packed into a small apartment and yet see it inhabiting a cozy, friendly, spacious apartment—we say it is an upbuilding sight because we see the love [vi see den Kjerlighed] that must be in each and every individual, since of course one unloving person would already be enough to occupy the whole place. We say it because we see that there actually is room where there is heartroom. 153

In this example we also see, phenomenologically speaking of course, the love that manifests itself through actual human relations. One final example Kierkegaard gives at this point of the discourse refers to a mother’s love: We would not think that the sight of a person sleeping could be upbuilding. Yet if you see a baby sleeping on its mother’s breast—and you see the mother’s love, see that she has, so to speak, waited for and now makes use of the moment while the baby is sleeping really to rejoice in it because she hardly dares let the baby notice how inexpressibly she loves it—then this is an upbuilding sight. 154

Here again, we see the love through the face of the mother, which reflects her loving gaze toward the child in which she recognizes and rejoices in the precious other that is her child. There is no reason here to consider the mother’s love as an expression of the preferential love of self-love, and to his credit Kierkegaard does not do so, although unfortunately a note from the translators raises this concern. 155 One would only consider the parent-child relation as a relation of self-love if one starts with the presupposition that the child is a possession of the parent, and there does not seem to be any valid reason to grant this presupposition without leaving the realm of love. To the lovers who have given birth to the child, the child first appears as the other that they could never possess and make their own, and yet as an other for which they nevertheless bear complete responsibility. In this light, the arrival of the child makes possible a beautiful and deep loving reduction, the strength of which is largely beyond compare.


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Problematically, again, it is also the case in Kierkegaard’s writings that a particular theological stance occasionally distorts and seemingly contradicts his sound and healthy phenomenology of love. So, for example, the fact that the Scriptures do not compare maternal love to God’s love seems to be a reason for devaluing it as an expression of self-love, although Kierkegaard fails to explain how paternal love would not be subject to the same criticism of being “simply self-love raised to a higher power, and thus the animals also have it.” 156 So, what does Kierkegaard have to say about the family elsewhere? In a journal entry written near the end of his life he writes: The hearty twaddle of family life constitutes the worst danger for Christianity, and not wild lusts, debauchery, terrible passions and the like. They are not so opposed to Christianity as this flat mediocrity, this stuffy reek, this nearness to one another . . . There is no greater distance from obedience to the either—or than this flat, hearty family twaddle. 157

Here again we see that when priority is given to a particular view of Christianity over and against a more discerning phenomenological expression of love, the result is devastating. How should we thus view the relation between the views contained with the writings of Hegel and Kierkegaard? Let us consider some varied responses to this question, although Jon Stewart’s recent study Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered (2007) provides a clear and persuasive account. Stewart begins by explaining “the standard view,” which “regards this relation as a purely negative one.” 158 Proponents of this view also believe that Kierkegaard expresses a personal attack against Hegel, who is seen as having led “a misguided life.” 159 Stewart writes, “Kierkegaard is thus said to have waged a rabid campaign against both Hegel’s philosophy and his person.” 160 As we have seen above, Mark C. Taylor’s work sees both similarities and oppositions in the Hegel-Kierkegaard relation. In his Journeys to Selfhood: Hegel and Kierkegaard, Taylor advances the discussion by noting important structural similarities between the two thinkers, and he identifies “the central thesis underlying [his] investigation” as this: “that Hegel and Kierkegaard develop alternative phenomenologies of spirit that are designed to lead the reader from inauthentic to authentic or fully realized selfhood.” 161 As Stewart explains, “Taylor offers a much more balanced assessment in an effort to bring the two thinkers into a genuine dialogue,” 162 but Stewart nevertheless suggests that Taylor’s “methodology tends to undermine this goal.” 163 Overall, Stewart provides the most even-handed and detailed account of the complicated Hegel-Kierkegaard relation, suggesting that “the HegelKierkegaard relation is characterized by its plurality.” 164 According to Stewart, in the first period of Kierkegaard’s writings, 1834–1843, is marked by a

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“pro-Hegel disposition.” 165 This period includes The Concept of Irony, “the most Hegelian of all Kierkegaard’s works,” 166 as well as Either/Or, which structurally reflects Hegel’s influence, but more importantly for our purposes, “Judge William likewise avails himself of a Hegelian dialectic when he traces different stages and variants of love in ‘The Aesthetic Validity of Marriage.’” 167 Nevertheless, we do well to note that Stewart regrettably does not substantially discuss Stages on Life’s Way, the Edifying Discourses, or Works of Love in his work, and while Taylor held that Stages on Life’s Way was the most significant work for a determination of Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love, in this work I suggest that the Edifying Discourses and Works of Love are especially important for understanding Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of love, while also trying to conceive a unified expression through an analysis of several other of his varied writings. Other contemporary Danish Kierkegaard scholars have suggested a connection between Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and Kierkegaard’s Works of Love, although this work by Kierkegaard makes no direct reference to Hegel, 168 and on Stewart’s account Works of Love appears during the period of Kierkegaard’s authorship that “can be characterized by its absence of a relation to Hegel.” 169 For example, Arne Grøn has “suggested that in Works of Love there is a dialectic of recognition that is similar to that sketched by Hegel in the Phenomenology of Spirit,” 170 and Claudia Welz has raised the question “Does Kierkegaard’s Works of Love provide his own phenomenology of spirit?” 171 Most recently, Ulrika Carlsson has provided a new dimension of the Hegel-Kierkegaard relationship in her article “Kierkegaard’s Phenomenology of Spirit.” 172 While we have seen evidence to view Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love as extending the Hegelian dialectic, a significant concern can be raised when reading Hegel’s short discussion of the commandment to love your neighbor in his Phenomenology of Spirit. Although discussions of this section are not readily found in the secondary literature, this alone would seem enough to condemn Hegel as an abstract thinker unconcerned with the individual. In part C (AA) “Reason” of Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel turns his attention to “Reason as lawgiver,” in the section on “Individuality which takes itself to be real in and for itself,” and within this context he offers a critique of the commandment to love your neighbor. In general, for Hegel the imperative to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” as well as other similar kinds of imperatives such as “honor thy father and mother” or “always tell the truth,” are empty expressions that provide no real guidance for how one is required to act in a particular situation. 173 Key points of Hegel’s critique serve to conceptualize love as “a relationship between two individuals, or as a relationship of feeling Active love—for love that does not act has no existence and is therefore hardly intended


Chapter 2

here.” 174 So far so good, and Hegel links love to the good, as the aim of active love is to do good and benefit the other individual and to remove evil from him or her. For this reason one needs to know the good and to be able to distinguish it from the bad, or as Hegel puts it, “I must love [the other] intelligently.” 175 Hegel then writes: “Intelligent, substantial beneficence is, however, in its richest and most important form the intelligent universal action of the state—an action compared with which the action of a single individual, as an individual, is so insignificant that it is hardly worth talking about.” 176 Here Hegel equates love with beneficence, for as he said above it is a relationship of “feeling Active love.” Thus we find Hegel approaching a conception of love as a feeling action, and we may here recall that for Spinoza love is an active emotion, and that active emotions are in tune with reason. Although Hegel then explicitly states that beneficence is a sentiment, we may begin to wonder whether it is better not to reduce love solely to a feeling (or emotion) or an action. Nevertheless, we may also wonder how it is possible for a universal action of the state to be a sentiment, or how it is possible for a state to feel for other individuals. In short, how can a state love? Without considering this problem, however, Hegel continues to move away from the conception of love as a relationship between individuals, and thus away from the commandment to love your neighbor. He does this by suggesting that for an individual the only significantly beneficent action is one “which is quite single and isolated, of help in [a situation of] need.” 177 But such a situation is “as contingent as it is transitory,” and “chance determines not only the occasion of the action but also whether it is a ‘work’ at all, whether it is not immediately undone and even perverted into something bad.” 178 Thus “works of love” may or may not exist, and this leads Hegel to conclude that the command to love your neighbor as yourself is lacking in “universal content” and “does not express, as an absolute ethical law should, something that is valid in and for itself.” 179 Although Kierkegaard will not provide a direct criticism of Hegel’s treatment of the commandment in Phenomenology of Spirit, he will provide us with a decisively richer consideration of the commandment in Works of Love. Both conceptions agree in the conception of active love as a work, although Kierkegaard’s account has little direct discussion of the political state. This has not prevented some recent political theorists from finding Works of Love his most political work, because it provides a revolutionary philosophy of love and demonstrates the multiple ways in which individuals may love others. It is also significant to add that both Hegel and Kierkegaard understand that love involves an internal immediate state of consciousness not open to direct observation, and we shall thus appropriately consider love’s immediacy in the following chapter.

Love’s Incitement


When love is incited, as we have seen, there is an initial expression of desire, which is experienced as wanting and manifested as not having. This is the negative in love—the irony of love, if you will—that can only be mastered through doing or acting in order to win the sound and healthy love that is a possibility for all human beings. NOTES 1. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 51. 2. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 46. 3. Although impossible to avoid, here is not the place to get involved in the complex hermeneutical issue known as the “Socrates problem.” For the most part, I shall consider Plato’s writings as constitutive of whatever could be considered as Plato’s philosophy of love. On the other hand, I shall refer to Socrates’s view when considering reports of his accounts, such as in Plato’s Apology and Symposium, and when considering his view as presented by Kierkegaard. 4. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 12. 5. This is the alternative spelling of Kierkegaard’s name that appears on the title page of his first publication. 6. Kierkegaard, Early Polemical Writings, 76. 7. Kierkegaard, Early Polemical Writings, 77. 8. See Strawser, Both/And: Reading Kierkegaard from Irony to Edification, especially chapter 2. 9. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 24. 10. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 29. 11. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 29. 12. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 45. 13. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 45-46. 14. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 46. 15. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 47. 16. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 47. 17. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 48. 18. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 49. 19. Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers, vol. 4, 4281; Pap. X-3 A 477. As Jon Stewart explains, this journal entry clearly suggests that Kierkegaard “uncritically accepted some aspects of Hegel’s philosophy at the time of his dissertation and was not merely ironically pretending to do so.” Jon Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 143. It is important to keep this in mind when we consider Kierkegaard’s relation to the Hegelian conception of love. 20. Pattison, Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Discourses, 10. Although it bears noting that for Pattison this appears to be more because of what Socrates endures—“rejection, persecution, suffering”—than for his actual view. 21. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 48. 22. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 52. 23. See Kierkegaard, Works of Love, especially page 16. 24. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 6. 25. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 6. 26. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 51. 27. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 52. 28. Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers, vol. 4, 4281; Pap. X-3 A 477. 29. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 170. 30. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 170. 31. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 170.


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32. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 286. 33. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 291. 34. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 300. 35. See Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, where in “The Esthetic Validity of Marriage,” Judge William writes: “Romantic love [romantiske Kjærlighed] can be portrayed very will in the moment; marital love [ægteskabelige Kjærlighed] cannot, for an ideal husband is not one who is ideal once in his life but one who is that every day” (135). He explains further: “How, then, can the esthetic, which is incommensurable even for portrayal in poetry, be represented? Answer: by being lived” (137). Note also that Kierkegaard does not use Elskov to designate “romantic love,” and thus set it apart from Kjærlighed, as many readers might suspect here; instead he uses the latter term to refer to both the romantic qualification and the marital qualification of love, which is one. 36. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 300. 37. See Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 300-314, for Kierkegaard’s discourse on “Love Abides.” Here Kierkegaard explains that love is an active characteristic “acquired at every moment . . . . The one who loves abides, he abides in love, preserves himself in love; what he accomplishes by this is that his love for people abides” (302). Here Kierkegaard also makes a strong point that one who does not continually abide in love never was loving: “The point is that one cannot cease to be loving; if one is truly loving, then one remains that; if one ceases to be that, then one never was that” (303). 38. Kierkegaard, The Point of View, 71. Note that this work was published posthumously, and thus the point of view Kierkegaard intended for The Point of View is uncertain. Given that Kierkegaard withheld publication coupled with the fact that he considered publishing this work under a pseudonym we can question his relationship to the perspective he develops in this writing. For a more detailed discussion of this see my Both/And: Reading Kierkegaard from Irony to Edification, 228-237. 39. Kierkegaard, The Point of View, 69-70. Here Kierkegaard writes: “Just one more thing. When someday my lover comes, . . . he will see that the irony consisted in just this, that in this esthetic author and under this Erscheinung [appearance] of worldliness the religious author concealed himself, a religious author who at that very time and for his own upbuilding perhaps consumed as much religiousness as a whole household ordinarily does.” 40. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 300-301. 41. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 301. 42. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 21. 43. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 21. 44. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 21. The concept of redoubling will be explained in more detail below. 45. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 440. 46. Unfortunately, Kierkegaard does not write of his mother in the same manner, as she is surprisingly absent from his writings. This absence has been the subject of controversy and debate. 47. See Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 589. 48. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 437. 49. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 325. 50. Carl S. Hughes, Kierkegaard and the Staging of Desire: Rhetoric and Performance in a Theology of Eros (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2014), 39. 51. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 328-329. The next line is also of interest: “But action must not degenerate into a kind of fatuous indefatigableness; it ought to have an apriority in itself so as not to lose itself in a vapid infinity.” This “apriority in itself” is love. 52. Hughes, Kierkegaard and the Staging of Desire, 40. 53. Hughes, Kierkegaard and the Staging of Desire, 40. 54. Hughes, Kierkegaard and the Staging of Desire, 40. 55. Hughes, Kierkegaard and the Staging of Desire, 40. 56. This is the view of Max Scheler’s personalism. See Max Scheler, Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values, translated by M. S. Frings and R. L. Funk (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973), 393f.

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57. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, 166. 58. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 418. 59. See Plato’s Symposium in Plato on Love where Socrates says that “the only thing I say I understand is the art of love” (33 [177d]). Note, however, that when it comes time for Socrates to convey this understanding we learn that it comes from Diotima, prophetess from Mantinea, “who taught [Socrates] the art of love” (61 [201d]). Additionally, when considering the subject of love in the Phaedrus, Socrates explains: “I am well aware that none of these ideas can have come from me—I know my own ignorance” (Plato on Love, 98 [235e]). 60. See the Symposium (200a-201a) and Socrates’s first speech in the Phaedrus in which he says that “as everyone plainly knows, love is some kind of desire” (Plato on Love, 100). Although Socrates later recants this speech, he may be said to reject the view of love as a negative, unethical kind of desire that “overpowers a person’s considered impulse to do right” (101 [238b]), but not the general point that love is a kind of desire. 61. Symposium 202e, 204b; Phaedrus 242e; Plato on Love 62, 64, 106. 62. Symposium 206a; Plato on Love, 66. 63. Symposium 211b-211c; Plato on Love, 72. 64. Symposium 211b; Plato on Love, 72. 65. Phaedrus 254b; Plato on Love, 119. 66. Phaedrus 251a; Plato on Love, 116. Readers should note that I have extended the discussion of the love of boys to the more general love of others in order to move beyond the context of Athenian paiderastia. 67. Consider that before Alcibiades begins his speech he remarks, “I hope you didn’t believe a single word Socrates said: the truth is just the opposite” (Symposium 214c-d; Plato on Love, 76), and he ends with a warning that Socrates “has deceived us all” (Symposium 222b; Plato on Love, 85). 68. Phaedrus 256d; Plato on Love, 121. The point is that even though one finds an emphasis on philosophy leading lovers to an understanding of the transcendent forms, one cannot dismiss the significance of the physical, earthly relationship between lovers. 69. Here is the complete sentence: “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” See Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality, Corrected Edition, edited by David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1979), 39. 70. Jill Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World: From Cosmic Origins to Human Death (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 11. 71. Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World, 12. 72. Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World, 21. 73. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 7. 74. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 7. 75. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 7. 76. Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World, 53. 77. Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World, 67, 68. 78. Kierkegaard, The Essential Kierkegaard, 8. 79. Kierkegaard, The Essential Kierkegaard, 8. 80. Kierkegaard, The Essential Kierkegaard, 9. 81. Kierkegaard, The Essential Kierkegaard, 9. 82. Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World, 150. 83. Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World, 188. 84. Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World, 200. 85. Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World, 29. 86. Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World, 196-197. 87. Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World, 103-104, 173, 200. 88. Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World, 190. 89. Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World, 197-198. 90. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 13. 91. David West, Reason and Sexuality in Western Thought (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2005), 145.


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92. West, Reason and Sexuality in Western Thought, 145. 93. West, Reason and Sexuality in Western Thought, 145. 94. Hughes, Kierkegaard and the Staging of Desire, 38. 95. Mark C. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit: Kierkegaard vs. Hegel,” Kierkegaardiana 10 (1977): 95. 96. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 95. 97. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 97. 98. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 98-99. 99. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 99. 100. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 100. 101. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 101. 102. Jean Hyppolite, Genesis and Structure of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, translated by Samuel Cherniak and John Heckman (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1974), 164. 103. Quoted in Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 102. 104. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 103. 105. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 89. 106. See section 1 of the introduction to Jon Stewart’s Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered for a presentation of this standard view. 107. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 104. 108. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 105. 109. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 105. 110. Kierkegaard, Stages on Life’s Way, 81. 111. Kierkegaard, Stages on Life’s Way, 87. 112. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 106. 113. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 107. 114. Kierkegaard, Stages on Life’s Way, 107. 115. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 108. 116. Kierkegaard, Stages on Life’s Way, 161. 117. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 108. 118. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 116. 119. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 109. 120. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 109. 121. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 109. 122. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 110. 123. Papirer, XII A 96; Søren Kierkegaard’s Journals and Papers, translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970), no. 2052. 124. See Emmanuel Levinas, “Existence and Ethics,” in Kierkegaard: A Critical Reader, ed. Jonathan Rée and Jane Chamberlain (Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers, 1998), 31. 125. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 110. 126. Pattison, “Foreword” to Works of Love, ix. 127. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1962), 37. 128. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 89. 129. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 111. 130. Knud Ejler Løgstrup, The Ethical Demand, edited by Hans Fink and Alaisdair MacIntyre and translated by Theodor Jensen and Gary Puckering (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997), 232. 131. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 112. 132. We shall consider the question of self-love in chapter 6. Note that this movement away from the self must be understood within the context of the loving lover and not the beloved, for this does not imply that the distinctiveness of the individual beloved is of no importance, as we have already seen above that it holds crucial significance. Paradoxically expressed, it is the subject that moves away from the self in moving closer to the other. 133. New Living Translation. 134. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 112. 135. Taylor, “Love and Forms of Spirit,” 112.

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136. G. F. W. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, translated by T. M. Knox (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1967), 110. 137. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, 111. 138. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, 111. 139. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, 111. 140. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, 112. 141. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, 113. 142. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, 351. 143. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, 116. 144. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, 117. 145. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 197. 146. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 197. 147. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 197. 148. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 197-198. 149. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, 122. 150. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 214. 151. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 213. 152. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 223. 153. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 214. The last line of this quotation refers to a common Scandinavian saying, which in Danish goes: “Hvor der er hjerterum, er der husrum” [Where there is room in your heart, there is room in your house]. In Swedish the saying is this: “Finns det hjärterum, finns det stjärterum” [if there is room in your heart, there is room for another person’s behind]. Thus the common idea is that there is a connection between love and hospitality. 154. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 214. 155. Note 9 refers to a passage in the supplementary material in which Kierkegaard writes that “maternal love as such is simply self-love raised to a higher power.” See Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 483 and 510. 156. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 483. 157. Søren Kierkegaard, The Last Years: Journals 1853–1855, translated by R. G. Smith (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1965), 265. 158. Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered, 3. 159. Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered, 4. 160. Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered, 4. 161. Mark C. Taylor, Journeys to Selfhood: Hegel and Kierkegaard (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1980), 13. See especially pp. 228-262 for the structural similarities. 162. Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered, 28. 163. Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered, 28-29. 164. Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered, 617. 165. Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered, 598. 166. Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered, 600. 167. Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered, 601. 168. See Claudia Welz, “Kierkegaard and Phenomenology,” in The Oxford Handbook of Kierkegaard, edited by John Lippitt and George Pattison (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013), 443. Welz also adds that the journal entries from this period lack any references to Hegel. 169. Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered, 613. 170. Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered, 31. See Arne Grøn, “Kaelighedens gerninger og anerkendelsens dialektik [Works of Love and the Dialectic of Recognition]” Dansk Teologisk Tidsskrift [Danish Theological Journal] 54 (1991): 260-270. 171. Claudia Welz, “Present within or without Appearances? Kierkegaard’s Phenomenology of the Invisible: Between Hegel and Levinas,” Kierkegaard Studies Yearbook, edited by Heiko Schulz, Jon Stewart, and Karl Verstrynge (Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter, 2007), 480.


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172. Here Carlsson addresses the distinction between the “inner” and “outer,” and her argument focuses on reading Kierkegaard as providing a phenomenology of the spirit of irony in which she shows that Kierkegaard is both with and against Hegel. See Ulrika Carlsson, “Kierkegaard’s Phenomenology of Spirit,” European Journal of Philosophy, published online July 7, 2014. 173. See Robert Stern, The Routledge Guidebook to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (London, UK: Routledge, 2013), 147-148. 174. G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, translated by A. V. Miller (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 255. 175. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 255. 176. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 255. 177. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 255. 178. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 255-256. 179. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 256.

Chapter Three

Love’s Immediacy

Everything I do I do with love, and so I also love with love. —Johannes 1 How would the eye that loves find time for a backward look, since the moment it did so it would have to let its object go! —Kierkegaard 2 As soon as love dwells on itself, it is out of its element. —Kierkegaard 3

In Kierkegaard’s first pseudonymous writing, Either/Or, we find both the wanting and the having sides of love illustrated in various ways. It is commonly considered to be the case that the distinction between the aesthetic and ethical expressions of love parallel the distinction between romantic and marital love, and consequently also the distinction between the wanting (negative) and having (positive) sides of love. After all, at the beginning of the letter to his friend on “The Esthetic Validity of Marriage,” Judge William explains that an “individual life” has “two kinds of history—the outer and the inner,” which are two currents that flow in opposite directions.” 4 He explains further: The first, in turn, has two sides. The individual does not have that for which he strives, and history is the struggle in which he acquires it. Or the individual has it but nevertheless cannot take possession of it, because there is continually something external that prevents him. History, then, is the struggle in which he overcomes these obstacles. The other kind of history begins with possession, and history is the process by which he acquires it. 5



Chapter 3

In reflecting on this passage it is, first, important to understand that Judge William’s reflections on “love’s dialectic” in “The Esthetic Validity of Marriage” continue to employ the Hegelian methodology that was present in The Concept of Irony, and thus mutual recognition and reciprocity remain part of the context here. As we have seen, Jon Stewart defends this claim in his recent study, 6 but commentators as far back as the late nineteenth century have argued “that Hegel’s doctrine of mediation can be seen in Judge William’s argument that the impulse of love must be mediated and transformed into the institution and ethical union of marriage.” 7 The discussion of individual history above should be viewed within this context of struggle and recognition. Second, what comes to light in the above quotation is a peculiar relation between having and possessing, for, on the one hand, it is possible to have the love-relation—in which case the lover has enacted his or her love— and yet not possess the beloved. On the other hand, Judge William is also suggesting that it is possible to possess love, and nevertheless need to acquire it in time. Either way, we can see that it is proper to believe that love is present, the movement of love is initiated, such that to consider the aesthete as essentially lacking in love or unable to love is misguided. Additional evidence is found in Works of Love, where Kierkegaard indicates that considering love as wanting or longing does not mean that love is thus absent. He writes: “Love has been called a want, but, note well, such a want that the lover continually wants what he actually possesses—a longing, but, note well, continually for what the lover actually has.” 8 Thus we are justified in presupposing the presence of love in the aesthetic fragments of life that make up part 1 of Either/Or. Moreover, as West argues, “it is essential for the ethical value of marriage that it is founded and persists on the aesthetic basis of a love that also includes sensuousness and physical attraction.” 9 Consequently, what we now need to consider is Kierkegaard’s account of love’s immediacy. As we approach Either/Or, we shall continue to focus on the overall picture of Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love read phenomenologically. “Phenomenology sets out to explore and describe human experience as it is experienced from the perspective of the subject,” 10 and Kierkegaard’s work clearly exhibits this approach, as it illustrates contrasting “fragments of life,” while presenting readers with various intentional stances on love ranging from A’s essays on “the erotic” and the first kiss to Johannes the Seducer’s reflections on love. Although the aesthetic stage is commonly taken to be centered on pleasure, what is perhaps less commonly recognized is that “the enjoyment of pleasure depends on the spiritual state of the individual: ‘The essence of pleasure does not lie in the thing enjoyed, but in the accompanying consciousness.’” 11 Recognizing this phenomenological fact adds another strong reason in support of the view that Kierkegaard’s writings develop a phenomenology of love.

Love’s Immediacy


How, then, is love to be understood in the diverse writings that make up Either/Or? Are there characteristics that belong to a common structure of love? As I shall suggest, the central characteristics that emerge from this work are love’s immediacy and love’s eternity, which will be the focus of this chapter and chapter 5 respectively. Either/Or is traditionally understood to be the starting point for Kierkegaard’s authorship proper, and although this view, which stems from Kierkegaard’s own reading of his work in The Point of View for My Work as an Author, overlooks and undervalues the early works—and in particular The Concept of Irony—it is the case that Either/Or is the starting point for Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous authorship. Nevertheless, taking Either/Or as a starting point is unproblematic for this study, since it is directly evident from the contents of this writing, impressive both in size and structure, that this is a significant work on the philosophy of love. In other words, it is a work of love. Although I shall not be able to do justice to all of the contents, an analysis of some of the key parts of what the pseudonymous editor Victor Eremita describes as a Chinese puzzle box will serve to support the interpretation of Either/Or as a work of love. 12 As is commonly known and as its title suggests, Either/Or presents readers with a choice. This choice is not presuppositionless; it is not, in a sense, free. Either/Or, I suggest, presupposes that we are already lovers. It presupposes that we do and shall love, for love is the overriding theme and decisive issue involved in the fragments of life illustrated in this work. Therefore, the choice is already situated within the erotic reduction, as will be seen in more detail below, so the question is clearly not whether to love or not to love. The personae we encounter throughout the text are already lovers, from the unidentified author “A” to Johannes the Seducer and the women sketched in “Silhouettes” in between. 13 Thus, the question “How do I become a lover?” is refined to “How do I become a good lover?” The focus is clearly still on the “how,” but when read in this light we find that the common interpretation that seeks to maintain a forceful opposition between the aesthetic life to the ethical life is misleading. In probing the life-views of, for example, the aesthete and Judge William 14 we find their philosophies of love to be much more complementary than oppositional. Thus when we then imagine the mastermind behind this elaborate marionette show, we come to realize that what we are likely being asked to consider is how we should perfect ourselves as lovers. Seen in this light we find first and foremost not a work in “existentialism,” whatever that may still mean today, but instead a work in erotic perfectionism. Consequently, the analysis below will focus on describing the ways in which we can work to become good lovers, always striving to become better. In the second to last “Diapsalmata,” which opens Either/Or, our anonymous author reflects:


Chapter 3 The sun is shining brilliantly and beautifully into my room; the window in the next room is open. Everything is quiet on the street. It is Sunday afternoon. I distinctly hear a lark warbling outside a window in one of the neighboring courtyards, outside the window where the pretty girl lives. Far away in a distant street, I hear a man crying “Shrimp for sale.” The air is so warm, and yet the whole city is as if deserted.—Then I call to mind my youth and my first love [Kjærlighed]—when I was filled with longing; now I long only for my first longing. What is youth? A dream. What is love [Kjærligheden]? The content of the dream. 15

With attention to describing the scene and the mood in detail, our author is expressing the basic natural emotive force of love; it is rooted in longing or desire, and the lover who loves love is someone who recognizes the lack and embraces its power. For it is the power to put one in motion, and we have come to understand that the anonymous author is struggling to find within himself the impetus to move, for he feels “as a chessman must feel when the opponent says of it: That piece cannot be moved.” 16 So, here again, as in The Concept of Irony, we find an expression of a negative beginning of love, for longing is this beginning. Is there any other way for a human being to begin to become a lover? We already know that perfectly expressed, love is a fullness, but do we ever start from a state of fullness? Must we always begin with the negative? One view that emerges from a reading of The Concept of Irony and Either/Or is that perhaps more than anything they illustrate the longing of love, which is to say that we begin with desire or wanting, and we can surely wonder whether the emotional force is ever quenched in this lifetime. But we know from Kierkegaard that it is possible to master this desire—the “irony of love”—and in doing so exhibit a “conquering nature” in route to a “possessing nature,” 17 such that we come to learn that the positive affirmation of love is a possibility all along. Of course, we shall also come to learn that reciprocity is not a requirement derived from the basic structure of love, although this will emerge more clearly in other writings by Kierkegaard. For now, let us consider love’s immediacy, which can be approached phenomenologically through a reflection on the sensuality of love. As West writes, “the quintessential expression of modern sensuality is the mythical character of Don Juan, discussed in Kierkegaard’s pseudo-academic essay on ‘The Immediate Stages of the Erotic or the Musical Erotic,’” 18 thus we shall now direct our attention to this text.

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THE SENSUOUS DREAM: THE SUBSTANCE OF LOVE The origin of love is like a dream. We experience its power and clarity, and then it disappears in a haze. How does desire awaken? What sets love in motion? As we shall see, love is itself the substance that sets itself in motion. Love is the prime mover. How should this be understood? In order to approach these questions, we must look at the immediacy of love, which is what we find Kierkegaard doing at the beginning of the pseudonymous Either/Or in the essay “The Immediate Erotic Stages or the Musical Erotic.” The importance of this essay in understanding the concept of love has recently been advanced by Pia Søltoft in her paper “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love.” 19 Søltoft wishes to argue “that for Kierkegaard, love is one,” 20 and provides a strong case for finding within Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love a unified conception of love. “Love is not a Christian concept and a human phenomenon,” she writes, and this leads to an analysis of what she terms “the sheer phenomenon of love.” There thus appears to be a developing understanding of Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love approaching what Marion calls the “univocity of love,” and Søltoft provides compelling interpretative evidence leading in this direction. Let us now consider this evidence. Søltoft begins her argument by drawing a distinction between a concept and a phenomenon, and she asks: “Can we describe love as a sheer phenomenon before transforming our vision via the concept of true (Christian) love? And if we can, what is the relationship between this immediate phenomenon of love and the Christian concept of love?” 21 Although this is an important distinction, it is hard to see how a description in words—in language, which is both shaped by and shaping thought—refers purely, sheerly, to the phenomenological realm and not also the conceptual one. Thus, we have to recognize the irony of love here, and not be hesitant to speak about a phenomenological conception of love, while agreeing that this conception must be held as fundamental and prior to a theological Christian conceptualization. In addition to the key point that “for Kierkegaard there is only one love,” 22 Søltoft demonstrates that love is essentially erotic, which is based on “the fact that there is an intimate connection between love and the body.” 23 She rightly points out that what is meant here is not “in the first instance, sexual,” and adds that on this point Kierkegaard’s view of love “in some sense anticipates the phenomenological insights of Marion, . . . who develop[s] a concept of love that can contain the experience of love as an erotic phenomenon.” 24 Kierkegaard, we find, develops such a description of love in “The Immediate Erotic Stages or the Musical Erotic,” which focuses on the sensual-erotic urge and desire. Let us now consider this fundamental aspect of love’s manifestation.


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The stated goal of the anonym’s essay on the erotic phenomenon is expressed as follows: “The immediate task of this exploration is to show the significance of the musical-erotic and to that end in turn to indicate the various stages, which, since they are all characterized by the immediate erotic, also harmonize in this, that essentially they are all musical.” 25 This task is given within the context of an insignificant introduction and conclusion that wishes to praise Mozart as an immortal. The romantically tuned author then proceeds to describe the immediacy of the sensual-erotic, which as Søltoft suggests, “is the first and most immediate form love assumes in a person.” 26 The essay develops much in the way one would expect a careful phenomenologist to apply his method, as it moves through different structures of experience that are understood as immediate stages of the erotic. Given that the description here is of love’s immediacy and the various ways that it manifests itself, the stages must be understood as “pre-conscious” or pre-reflective, 27 and this would also imply that any direct reference to the self or selfhood must be omitted from consideration. Thus it is highly appropriate that the author of this essay is anonymous, and this also suggests an important question about whether the basic expression of love is ultimately selfless. A key aspect of the description of the phenomenon of love in its early immediacy is that it is “a motion and an urge.” 28 Søltoft makes this point in the face of the problematically complicated description found in Kierkegaard’s text which states that “desire . . . in this stage . . . is devoid of motion,” although it is also said to be “gently rocked by an unaccountable inner emotion.” 29 Kierkegaard’s phenomenological description of the origin of the immediate-erotic struggles to capture that which essentially cannot be captured, and this explains at least partly why he turns to a mythical metaphor for assistance: Although desire in this stage is not qualified as desire, although this intimated desire is altogether vague about its object, it nevertheless has one qualification—it is infinitely deep. Like Thor, it sucks through a horn, the tip of which rests in the ocean; but the reason that it cannot suck its object to itself is not that the object is infinite, but that this infinity cannot become an object for it. Thus the sucking [Sugen] does not indicate a relation to the object but is identical with its sighing [Suk], and this is infinitely deep. 30

It does not seem misguided here to consider desire as an unaccountable infinite depth, which “appears as an undefined surplus of life,” 31 and emerges as an embodied power or force that propels one to action. This is the first stage of the immediate-erotic, and Søltoft follows Kierkegaard here by calling it “the dreaming desire,” which she describes as follows:

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The dreaming desire does not long for anyone or anything. However, there is a substantial longing, which is not directed towards an object, but develops within itself as an unconscious longing for longing. For this reason, the dreaming desire, although undefined, is nonetheless to be understood as a fullness, a surplus, a passion that cannot be contained within the subject . . . . The dreaming desire expresses itself as a surplus of being, a surplus of life, craving and passion. 32

What is most significant here is the interpretation of love as appearing as an overabundance, which seemingly would imply that it is not characterized by a lack. However, the next stage of the immediate-erotic is “the searching desire,” which “is built upon an element of lack within the sensual-erotic.” 33 In this way, it is suggested that love contains both “the elements of lack and surplus,” which can be seen as following the view put forth in Plato’s Symposium that “Love is a son of Affluence and Poverty.” 34 For Søltoft, this at best paradoxical and at worst contradictory combination can also be read as a combination of Need-Love (lack) and Gift-Love (surplus), which is a distinction first employed in C. S. Lewis’s The Four Loves. 35 The question is whether these distinctions point to ultimately different kinds of love, which is a path of interpretation that Søltoft moves against, thus leaving us to wonder how to understand these seemingly contradictory elements. Perhaps one way of removing any formal contradiction is to recognize that the lack is not something that comes from within love, but it arises through loves relation to the other, which reflects the infinite depth that cannot become an object for it. In one sense, then, the other is that which is lacking and needed for love to bestow its gift and spend its surplus. But in another sense, insofar as “every other (one) is every (bit) other,” 36 what appears as a lack becomes a nonlack, for that which cannot possibly become an object cannot actually ever be missed. But, another possibility is that the conceptualization of a lack is found within a context in which reciprocity is expected. When the context is shifted, as in Kierkegaard’s other writings, then love manifests itself more clearly and solely as an overabundance. Søltoft then connects the love-urge with preferential love, and in explaining “what it is to be in love” she claims that “Kierkegaard understands being in love as both a divine gift and as natural.” 37 This dualism is accompanied by another: The sensual-erotic urge has, as already mentioned, two sides: it is, in part, a desire that presents itself as a surplus; a desire to love and thereby bestow its love onto another as an overflow of life, desire and passion (the dreaming desire). But it is also a desire in the sense of a longing or a lack; a desire to be loved (the seeking desire). 38


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Love thus expresses itself, according to this reading of Kierkegaard, as “a double motion: an urge to love and to be loved,” 39 but while there is certainly strong evidence to support the case that Kierkegaard views love as having a double motion in both needing to love and to be loved, it is not easy to understand how one unified phenomenon can lead in two opposing directions. This is most obviously problematic with regard to God (and Jesus Christ), whom for Kierkegaard needs to be loved, just as we do. Why this would be so is far from clear, especially if we seek to avoid conceptualizing God in an anthropomorphic manner. In this regard, Spinoza’s conception of God offers a philosophical improvement, for it avoids the logical difficulty involved in conceiving a perfect being as lacking being loved. But as argued previously, despite different theological conceptions, Spinoza and Kierkegaard may be seen to agree in many respects with regard to their conceptions of love. Even here, with regard to the sensual-erotic understood as a fundamental, natural love-urge or desire, agreement can be found. For Spinoza ultimately understands desire as the basic active emotion that drives a human being, and this is directly connected to his conception of love, that is nobility, as an active emotion which desires the good for the other. As suggested above, a description that maintains a double movement but avoids this problem would be one that identifies the other as the lack. In this way there is movement both within and without, but it can be argued that the inner surplus which seeks to express itself is not doing so because it needs to be loved, but rather because it needs to love, which in other words means that it loves to love. This is not to suggest that we do not want and need to be loved, but rather to express that this need manifests itself as a phenomenon different from the erotic phenomenon. There are different intentional structures involved in loving another person and wanting to be loved in return, and it is surely possible to love somebody who cannot or does not love in return, such as in the case of unrequited love, loving a severely mentally handicapped person, or loving one who is dead. Kierkegaard demonstrates in Works of Love that reciprocity is not required for a work of love, and Marion has more dramatically defended this thesis in The Erotic Phenomenon, where he argues that “it is necessary to reject reciprocity in love, . . . because in love reciprocity becomes impossible.” 40 In particular, Kierkegaard’s discourse on “Loving One Who Is Dead” in Works of Love exhibits this characterization of love, so we must thus reason that the need to be loved in return involves a different phenomenon. 41 Obviously, needing to be loved involves a specific reference to a self, the ipseity of which manifests itself through the flesh, whereas loving does not, and this involves no small difference. So, the question “what is it to be in love?” can be seen as differing from the question “what is it to love?” In being in love, where there are two persons involved, it makes sense to speak of the dialectic between surplus and longing and an attempt at reciprocated love. But I suggest that this is

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different from the dialectic involved in loving. There is indeed a surplus, and if we like we may still speak of a longing, but the longing either involves the unaccountable dreaming desire’s non-relation to infinity or the searching desire to find somebody to love, although in the latter case this lack does not come from within but rather from without. And if this lack is conditioned solely upon an additional need to be loved in return, then the door is opened for despair, deception, and seduction, or in general for a falling away from the erotic reduction. Thus, again, while “being in love” may involve “the equilibrium between the two directions,” 42 “loving another” involves a different equilibrium, which is an experience that involves the inner surplus and the outer application of the overabundant power. It is this union of the inner surplus and the outer loving to love that Kierkegaard writes of in Works of Love: So also with love. What love does, that it is; what it is that it does—and at one and the same moment. At the same moment it goes out of itself (the outward direction), it is in itself (the inward direction) and at the same moment it is in itself, it goes out of itself in such a way that this outward going and this returning, this returning and this outward going are simultaneously one and the same. 43

Note that Kierkegaard is not here describing a need to be loved, and the “returning” that is described refers to the inner movement, the overabundance, that empowers love into action. So, we could say that there are three stages 44 or movements being identified here: the inner movement, the outer movement to love, and then the outer movement wishing to be loved in return, which may or may not follow. The first two are selfless, which is to say that they occur pre-reflectively prior to the positing of a self, although I would hesitate to call them “unconscious,” while the third movement involves an awakening of the self manifested through the flesh and wanting to know and feel itself, and thus needing love in return. With regard to the first two, the inner and the outer are, as Kierkegaard explains, “simultaneously one and the same,” such that we may find here a reason to respect the thesis that “the inner is the outer.” However, the third movement involves an outward wishing that is not necessarily in harmony with the inner life of love. In this way we can understand Kierkegaard’s point in A Literary Review that “being in love is the culmination of a person’s purely human existence,” 45 for it is through the back and forth relation of loving others and being loved in return that what we would call the existence of a particular person comes to be known. The experience of love, this inner life of love, can also be lived without necessarily being known, which is to say that loving precedes knowing, as Marion has shown most directly in The Erotic Phenomenon, and which is what we mean by calling Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love a first phenomenology. Either way, love is the substance of life.


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Further, it is important to see that an act of bestowal is involved in the application of the movement of the sensual-erotic. As Søltoft explains, the act of bestowal is “a free action,” in which there is “no predetermination, no necessity, no conscious choice,” 46 and it is through this bestowal that the sensual-erotic may become transformed into preferential love. How love can be without conscious choice and yet preferential is perhaps difficult to see, so it is helpful here to consider Marion’s discussion of the advance, such that there is a choice accessible to consciousness, but it is not based on this or that reason, but instead love itself is its own sufficient reason. 47 Søltoft then wishes to connect the sheer phenomenon of love with the Christian concept of love understood as non-preferential love. She offers the helpful insight that “the reason why Christianity can demand of us that we love every other person as our neighbor is that we have an immediate experience of what love is.” 48 Thus Søltoft significantly shows that Kierkegaard’s conception of love may be read as a unified phenomenon. She explains further: There is a fundamental difference between preferential love and non-preferential love as neighbor love is. But the difference lies in love’s direction, not in the sheer phenomena of love. In preferential love whether it is erotic love or friendship, love’s direction is limited to one or a few other persons. In neighbor love it is demanded that the urge to love that is implanted by God in every human person is directed towards every other person. It is the same love, but a new direction. 49

Here careful readers may wish to call into question both the fundamentality and the difference, and obviously the reference to “sheer phenomena of love” may lead to confusion, considering that we have been arguing for a unified understanding of love as a sheer phenomenon. Instead, can we not argue that the sheer phenomenon of love is fundamentally non-preferential, and thus find an important agreement between the description of the sensual-erotic in Either/Or and non-preferential love in Works of Love? Let us explore the meaning of this further. It seems to me that what can be taken as crucial for an expression of preferential-love is that I expect to receive love in return from the beloved—from my partner (or partners, for who is to say it has to be limited to one or a few persons, surely not Don Juan and his 1,001 ladyloves), my children, my friends—and this helps to explain why Kierkegaard understands preferential love as an expression of self-love. Non-preferential love, which is of course what Kierkegaard refers to in Works of Love as “true love,” does not love expecting something in return, and actually the love that loves expecting a return seems hardly worthy to be called love. It is moved by love alone, for the sufficient reason of love alone. Thus we can understand Kierkegaard’s discussion of preferential love in

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Works of Love as an attempt to show that loving another should take us beyond the need to be loved in return, and it is interesting to find that A’s essay on the sensual-erotic and Søltoft’s commentary help us to see this. A further difficulty can be found in A’s view that sensuous love is essentially faithless. He writes: “Don Juan, however, is a downright seducer. His love is sensuous, not psychical, and, according to its concept, sensuous love is not faithful but totally faithless; it loves not one but all—that is, it seduces all.” 50 This raises a problem, for if the sensuous-erotic is the beginning of the sheer phenomenon of love, and if this phenomenon invokes faithfulness—as Sharon Krishek suggests in her reading of Kierkegaard, the central thesis of which is that “it takes faith to love” 51 and as Marion explains more generally in “Faithfulness as Erotic Temporality” 52 —then how can we provide a reading of this passage that is consistent with these views? It seems that one way to address this problem is to state in contradiction to Kierkegaard’s anonym that sensuous love requires faith, and that Don Juan betrays this love initiated through an erotic reduction when he fails to repeat his loving advance. Faithfulness, according to Marion, serves “a strictly phenomenological function” 53 that requires eternity, but note, it does not require exclusivity, which seems to be at least partly the way that “A” understands it in “The Immediate Erotic Stages.” Thus I suggest that during Don Juan’s advance as a lover he actually does experience his love as requiring eternity, for “loving provisionally—this is nonsense, a contradiction in terms.” 54 His erotic reduction becomes a seduction, however, when he fails to repeat his advance and falls out of love and into the natural attitude that fails to perceive the value he had previously experienced in his encounter with the other. 55 Another point worth highlighting here is that the view that “sensuous love . . . loves not one but all,” which I suggest still requires faithfulness, leads to a congruence with non-preferential, neighbor love, which as Søltoft explains, “is directed toward every other person.” A final phenomenological insight that can help to improve this commentary is the distinction between the body and the flesh. For although Søltoft emphasizes the point that “regarded as a phenomenon, being in love expresses itself bodily,” 56 what is at play in this relation pertains to the flesh, which can be distinguished from the body. Although Kierkegaard does not directly draw this distinction, I would suggest that his careful description of what he variously refers to as “sensuality,” “sensuousness,” and “immediacy” amounts to a recognition of this now common distinction in phenomenology, which was perhaps made most clearly initially by Max Scheler, and which is elaborated most carefully by Marion within the context of understanding the erotic phenomenon. For, as suggested earlier, Kierkegaard understands that “physical” pleasure is not strictly speaking a phenomenon occasioned by bodies, as “the essence of pleasure does not lie in the thing enjoyed, but in


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the accompanying consciousness.” 57 What this means is that, for example, in the first kiss, it is not the bodily contact between lips—for bodies do not touch—but rather “the accompanying consciousness” involving the immediate awareness of one feeling oneself feeling that manifests itself as pleasure. As Marion puts it, the flesh is “a privileged phenomenon” 58 which involves the experience of “feeling itself feeling.” Thus it is “opposed to extended bodies of the physical world,” 59 for they lack the capacity of feeling themselves feeling. Marion explains that interiority and exteriority are indistinguishable here, for the flesh cannot be at a distance from itself, and this helps to explain how the inner and outer movements of the sheer phenomenon of love can be “simultaneously one and the same.” By way of example, when I place my hand on my beloved, whether intending to comfort or arouse makes no difference here, the outer movement and touching corresponds simultaneously with the inner movement of feeling myself feeling my beloved. And unlike bodies, which resist each other and do not feel themselves feeling, the other, who is also sensuous flesh, is capable of not resisting my touch such that it is the other who gives me my flesh, which is something that she does not herself have. According to Marion, “the erotic reduction renders destitute all identity of self to self,” but through taking flesh ipseity becomes assigned to myself. 60 Nevertheless, the ipseity posited does not answer the question “Who am I?” although it does answer the question “Where am I?” I am in the flesh, which conditions the possibility of individuality and the ability to experience enjoyment for both myself and the other. Granted, Marion’s bold discussion of the flesh cannot be easily mapped on to Kierkegaard’s description of the sensuous-erotic, as the contexts are too different and the musical is not a theme in Marion’s reflections. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to view the sensuous flesh as the elemental power that enables the immediacy of love to manifest itself. EROTIC SE-/RE-DUCTION The most well-known part of Either/Or is of course “The Diary of the Seducer,” attributed to a certain Johannes, “that corrupt man,” 61 who has been much maligned for his art of seduction throughout the years. One interesting question to consider is whether Kierkegaard actually intends for his readers to view Johannes with total abhorrence, for given the Kierkegaardian gambit of saying by unsaying and unsaying by saying, it would be unlikely that a direct communication from the pseudonymous editor Victor Eremita is meant to be taken as the final word on the matter. For this reason, it may be wise to approach Johannes with a little more charity than he is usually given. So, what does the seducer represent, and how can we see this representation

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as playing a significant role in Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love? Seduction involves deception, and surely deception has no role in love, but ultimately who is the greatest victim of Johannes’s seduction? I suggest that we must begin by recognizing that the seducer is first of all a lover, one who enacts an erotic reduction, and the movement to seduce which follows can be seen as a failure to maintain the erotic reduction and the love for the other. Ultimately, this failure leads to Johannes seducing himself. Nevertheless, we can in good conscience praise the seducer, and Don Juan, for their vision and initiative, although we must regret that the initial movement of love which wills the good for the other is replaced by a focus on the self and self-enjoyment, and thus they never arrive at the true joy that can only result from the love of others. Given his initiative and ardent desire so highly desired, we can understand why Johannes the Seducer could say that he is not a seducer, but rather a lover, an eroticist. Consider this passage from “The Seducer’s Diary,” which occurs in a lengthy journal entry dated July 3rd: “Such a person is and remains a bungler, a seducer, which I can by no means be called. I am an esthete, an eroticist, who has grasped the nature and the point of love [Kjærlighedens Væsen og Pointet], who believes in love [Kjærligheden] and knows it from the ground up . . . .” 62 This passage should give readers pause when considering Victor Eremita’s editing and contextualization of Johannes’s diary, which does little to recognize the value Johannes bestows upon his beloved Cordelia. Perhaps Kierkegaard wishes us to see through this, and perhaps recognizing that Johannes “believes in love and knows it from the ground up” will allow us to form a more sensitive appraisal. In The Erotic Phenomenon Marion offers a reflection on Don Juan, the lover as such, whom he praises and defends against Sganarelle-types who fail to invoke the erotic reduction and look through “the eyes of love.” 63 For such types prefer to think that love is blind and would likely agree with the view Nietzsche expresses in The Antichrist: “Love is the state in which man sees things most decidedly as they are not. The force of illusion reaches its highest here, and so does the capacity for sweetening, for transfiguring. When a man is in love he endures more than at any other time; he submits to anything.” 64 To the contrary, far from being blind, it is “the lover [who] makes appear the one whom she loves, not the reverse,” 65 and “invariably one is only to the degree that one sees.” 66 Marion explains: “The other is phenomenalized in the exact measure according to which the lover loves him or her, as an Orpheus of phenomenality, tears him or her from indistinction and makes him or her emerge from the depths of the unseen.” 67 Johannes’s love for Cordelia thus brings her into full relief every time he sees her, from the moment she steps off the carriage to her walks along Østergade. Because of this, Johannes’s horizon of vision is constantly centered on Cordelia, “she is


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a treasure” 68 that shines forth in his experience and everything else that may happen to appear within this horizon is only seen in relation to her. Thus Marion’s analysis of the seducer Don Juan offers a helpful explanation here: But by what right does Sganarelle claim to see better than Don Juan what he himself would have neither noticed, nor seen, if the lover, Don Juan, had not first pointed it out to him? By what right does he dare, with a clear conscience, to reason as the lover, when he cannot, by definition, share either the vision or the initiative? Evidently because he is completely ignorant of the phenomenological rule according to which the anticipation of loving first allows one to see at last such and such an other, for the anticipation to love first sees her as lovable and unique, while otherwise she disappears into commerce and reciprocity. It is said that Don Juan and Sganarelle see the same other, but with two different gazes . . . . This is wrong, for in fact they see two different phenomena. The lover alone sees something else, a thing that no one other than he sees—that is, what is precisely no longer a thing, but, for the first time, just such an other, unique, individualized, henceforth torn from economy, detached from objectness, unveiled by the initiative of loving, arisen like a phenomenon to that point unseen. The lover, who sees insofar as he loves, discovers a phenomenon that is seen insofar as it is loved (and as much as it is loved). 69

Considered in this way, we can read Kierkegaard’s fascination with Don Juan and his development of the persona Johannes, known as a seducer, not so much a polemical attack, but instead a deep appreciation for the initiative of the lover. These reflections help us to appreciate the movement of love, but an analysis of the seducer also helps us to see where things go wrong, and ultimately we must recognize that the problem is not only one for so-called seducers, but in fact for all lovers who allow their love to change from desiring nothing but the good of the other to desiring only the good for themselves. Johannes’s misstep in becoming a lover is marked in the same passage in which he identifies himself as an eroticist and not a seducer, for here he continues by writing: “All this I know; I also know that the highest enjoyment imaginable is to be loved, loved more than anything else in the world.” 70 These words raise a problem for the philosophy of love: Is the highest goal of the lover to love or be loved? Obviously, both goals are decidedly different. Where should the emphasis fall? How are the two related? Both Kierkegaard’s and Marion’s writings suggest that the greatest goal of the lover is to love, for this alone depends, at least in some sense, on one’s own will, whereas being loved clearly does not. Thus we can see that the seducer loses his way in the same sense that the question “Does anyone out there love me?” cannot lead to a fulfilled erotic reduction, for one must instead ask “Can I love [the other] first?” The seducer does not realize the

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dead end in focusing primarily in being loved oneself, for ultimately when the erotic reduction is properly focused on the question “Can I love the other?”, or “Can I will the good for the other?”; then the question “Does anyone out there love me?” falls by the wayside in a manner similar to the way the multitude of sins fall by the wayside when the erotic reduction is realized. So, erotic seduction involves the erotic reduction, for the seducer begins by situating the other at the center of one’s vision. The other is perceived as perfectly beautiful, as illustrated in Johannes’s description of Cordelia reflected in a mirror: Her head is perfectly oval; she tilts it a little, thereby accentuating her forehead, which rises pure and proud without any delineation of the powers of understanding. Her dark hair rings her forehead softly and gently. Her countenance is like a fruit, every angle fully rounded; her skin is transparent, like velvet to the touch—that I can feel with my eyes. Her eyes—yes, I have not even seen them; they are hidden by lids armed with silken fringes that are bent like barbs, dangerous to anyone who wishes to meet her glance. Her head is a Madonna head, purity and innocence its mark. 71

Here, in the immediacy of the erotic reduction, the mirror image of the beloved is transubstantiated into a religious image, which tells us that from within the erotic reduction the other is seen as one to be worshipped and served. Johannes later invokes another religious analogy while also expressing the abandon and renunciation involved in loving: “Just as a temple dancer dances to the honor of the god, so I have consecrated myself to your service; light, thinly clad, limber, unarmed, I renounce everything.” 72 This attitude toward the lover is expressed much more forcefully in Works of Love, where Kierkegaard explains that a central aspect of loving the neighbor is the renunciation of self-love. This is developed within a context in which “preferential love” is distinguished from “self-denial’s love,” 73 and although Kierkegaard spends some time arguing for this distinction, he acknowledges that this surely does not mean that one should “cease loving . . . those for whom [one has] preference.” 74 Instead, the thrust of his argument is meant to show that in loving another there should be no self-love. This is also the case in Kierkegaard’s discussion of the sensuous, the flesh, in Works of Love, for Kierkegaard explains how it is a misunderstanding to think that Christianity “has posited a cleft between flesh and spirit” and “hated erotic love as the sensuous.” 75 Rather, “by the sensuous, the flesh, Christianity understands selfishness,” 76 thus it is not opposed to the sensuous, and surely not our now deepened understanding of the flesh and its arousal, which involves an opening unto the other. Marion explains:


Chapter 3 From this point forward, everything becomes clearer and I know how to distinguish another flesh from a body. For if there is even an other flesh, and thus an other’s flesh, it must by definition behave the opposite of physical bodies, which is to say, like my own flesh behaves as opposed to them—by not resisting, by withdrawing, by allowing itself to be stripped of its impenetrability, by suffering being penetrated. There where I feel that something puts up no resistance to me, and that, far from turning me back into myself and thus reducing me, this something withdraws, effaces itself and makes room for me, in short that this something opens itself, I know that I am dealing with flesh— or better, with a flesh other than my own, the flesh of an other. 77

Thus we can see that it is in fact because we are flesh that we can love the other. 78 From the centrality of the other the lover proceeds by envisioning only the good in the other and for the other. Initially, the lover also wills the good of the other, which is to say he 79 wants the best for the other and would like to help the other attain this. Consider how this point is plainly evident at the very beginning of Johannes’s diary. Johannes (and his erotic reduction) significantly begins with these words: “Take care, my beautiful stranger! Take care!” 80 I believe that there is much that can be derived from these plain but powerful words, but here it is sufficient to understand that Johannes’s initial experience of love manifests itself in concern for the other. Such is the immediate nature of the erotic reduction, as Johannes’s vision of the other is pervaded by care and desirous of the other’s well-being. The problem, however, is that the seducer fails to maintain this focus, as he gradually shifts to wanting most of all the good for himself, which he experiences as enjoyment, even at the expense of the other. Thus we could say that he falls out of love, by failing to will the good for the other and instead naturally seeking pleasure for one self. In this sense we can say that one does not fall into love, since love—as Judge William and Marion show—involves an act of the will. Rather, one falls out of love through a failure to maintain the erotic reduction and instead falling back into the natural attitude of psychological egoism. This falling out of love occurs when the goal of being loved replaces the goal of loving. In contrast, when loving first replaces being loved, then the lover “is decentered from the ego toward a certain other,” 81 and this other appears on a horizon full of care. Consequently, neither Johannes nor Don Juan maintains the erotic reduction that they inaugurate, and their erotic reduction thus becomes a seduction. Here Marion explains the slippage from the selfless mode of the advance to the return to self-centered concern: Before distinguishing themselves from one another, reduction and seduction (both erotic) come together to put into operation the same advance, the same anticipation—I love first, without any other reason than this one whom I risk loving, without awaiting her response, without presuming reciprocity, without even knowing her. . . . In seduction, the advance remains provisional and ends

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by canceling itself out, because once the other is seduced (led to give consent), I no longer love in advance or to the point of loss, but rather with a return, in full reciprocity: I will simply have made an advance on love, for which I will be reimbursed with interest. Just as the other will inevitably wind up returning to me the love I initially credited to her, my possession will catch up with it and will assimilate it to my ego, which will once again become the center of the circle. From that point, seduction betrays the erotic reduction, not because it seduces, but because it seduces neither enough nor long enough; because it ends up reestablishing reciprocity according to the natural attitude. 82

The deception involved in erotic seduction is that it fails to maintain the erotic reduction and returns to the natural attitude in which the self and not the other stands at the center. Thus we can understand that seduction and deception are not in and of themselves unloving acts, which we can say is the view offered by Kierkegaard, who employs deception continuously throughout his writings. But this is presumably for the good of others—for the good of the readers—as it appears designed to lead them to question themselves as would-be lovers and to ask themselves, more deeply if possible, “How do I become a lover?” So our sympathy for the seducer is not misguided, and as explained by Kierkegaard in Works of Love, any act whatsoever can be edifying if done out of love. There is nothing, nothing at all, that cannot be done or said in such a way that it becomes upbuilding, but whatever it is, if it is upbuilding, then love is present. Thus the admonition, just where love admits the difficulty of giving a specific rule, says, “Do everything for upbuilding.” It could just as well have said, “Do everything in love,” and it would have said the very same thing. 83

Ultimately, then, the seducer ends up deceiving himself, for he falls out of love, and whatever solitary pleasure he experiences in being loved is devoid of the greatest joy of loving. Like the writer of “Diapsalmata,” we realize that the seducer is unable fully “to abandon himself in joy’s infinitude,” 84 even though he may still experience pleasure. Thus we can understand how pleasure and joy refer to two different intentional experiences. A THEORY OF THE KISS In his diary Johannes refers to an unknown ancient philosopher who “has said that if a person carefully chronicles all his experiences, he is, before he knows where he is, a philosopher.” 85 While this rings true enough, I might add that if a philosopher analyzes and categorizes his experiences, he is a phenomenologist. Johannes then writes about his idea to gather “material for a book titled: A Contribution to a Theory of the Kiss,” and he remarks how curious is it “that there is no book on this topic.” 86 He then speculates: “Can


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the reason for this deficiency in the literature be that philosophers do not think about such things or that they do not understand them?” 87 This prefigures Marion’s observation at the beginning of The Erotic Phenomenon that “one would almost doubt whether philosophers experience love.” 88 Fortunately, both Johannes and Jean-Luc offer some insightful material on this topic, which further contributes to our understanding of love’s immediacy, the flesh, and enjoyment. Johnannes’s playful reflections focus on an ideal kiss, and he expresses several social norms of his day in projecting ways that kisses between different kinds of people could be classified. 89 For Johannes “the kiss must be the expression of a particular passion,” 90 and invoke a certain feeling, but this goes unexplained in his text. In contrast, Marion may very well be the first philosopher to present not only a phenomenological analysis of the kiss, but also of the climax. Consider the kiss. 91 This is first of all the act of the mouth, slightly open in order to touch another flesh— in order to give to the other his or her flesh. In so doing, the trivial acceptation of the word in fact perfectly verifies the phenomenological situation, where my flesh is not limited to my mouth, and neither is the flesh of the other limited to her mouth, but instead, by touching one another mouth to mouth, our two mouths set off a wave that traverses our two bodies, so as to transcribe them wholly into two fleshes, without remainder. 92

This “wave” is the “feeling” that emerges from the kiss, and it is such that “my flesh does not experience a part but rather the totality of the other, and vice versa . . . . Ideally, eroticization should recapitulate everything in a wave, which submerges and raises all flesh univocally.” 93 Thus, ultimately, “the kiss . . . inaugurates the infinite taking of flesh,” 94 through this act the phenomenon of the other flesh becomes manifest as well as the love of the other. It would be a misunderstanding to consider the kiss as something sexual, for we are trying to remain within the erotic reduction here. Thus, contrary to Johannes’s playful observations, the different kinds of people involved in the kiss—we are still reflecting, like Johannes, on “the perfect kiss,” which is to say phenomenologically on the eidos of the kiss—are irrelevant for understanding the meaning of the kiss. For, “eroticization without remainder is accomplished everywhere in the same way.” 95 What the kiss points to is the glory of the face—the face as flesh, the phenomenon of the other. Thus we could also imagine the kiss of a mother upon the forehead of a baby sleeping on her breast, as in the example Kierkegaard’s gives in Works of Love which expresses the edification of the mother’s love. 96 As Marion explains in this section titled “Eroticization as Far as the Face”:

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at this instant, her face witnesses to the accomplishment without remainder of her flesh and, in this sense, all her flesh rejoins her face in the same glory. Or if one prefers, far from her face sinking into the flesh, all her flesh becomes a face, like a “glorified body” is summed up in a single glory, the very glory of its face. Look at the flesh of a young mother, holding her newborn in her arms, flesh rising up as far as her face, where, indiscriminately incarnated, there is vanishing suffering, pleasure diffused, and joy returned upon itself. 97

The privileged phenomenon of the face in the immediacy of love witnesses to “the accomplished transcendence of the other,” 98 and through the kiss, “a unique amorous phenomenon” is experienced, which Marion refers to as “the crossing of flesh.” This crossed phenomenon is necessary for enjoyment, which is “infinitely more than pleasure.” 99 Enjoying the other is quite distinct from using the other for one’s own pleasure, for it involves giving the other her flesh, and adhering “firmly to her flesh for her—so that she might receive it. Thus I enjoy her. Put another way, I do not enjoy my pleasure, but hers.” 100 As Johannes insightfully writes in his diary: “‘My’—what does this word designate? Not what belongs to me, but what I belong to, what contains my whole being.” 101 Thus, we come to realize that “the question of love,” as Marion writes, is “only correctly taken up from the moment we [recognize] the phenomenological necessity of a radical reduction to the given [to love’s immediacy]—of the erotic reduction of the ego to the lover, to the advance, and finally to the flesh in glory.” 102 VICTORY IN LOVE Although we might not expect Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous work The Concept of Anxiety to be particularly relevant to the philosophy of love, it can be understood that anxiety takes root when love is lacking. Thus, both The Concept of Anxiety and the closely related Sickness unto Death conceivably express a view of life in which love has not been fully or successfully realized. Or perhaps better, they express existential moments—“in the individual life, anxiety is the moment” 103—in every human life in which one falls away from love and exits the erotic reduction. Within the context of reflecting on sensuousness, the pseudonym Vigilius Haufniensis makes it clear that a life transfigured by love drives out all anxiety: Here, as everywhere, I must decline every misunderstood conclusion, as if, for instance, the true task should now be to abstract from the sexual, i.e., in an outward sense to annihilate it. When the sexual is once posited as the extreme point of the synthesis, all abstraction is of no avail. The task, of course, is to bring it under the qualification of the spirit (here lie all the moral problems of the erotic). The realization of this is the victory of love in a person in whom

Chapter 3


the spirit is so victorious that the sexual is forgotten, and recollected only in forgetfulness. When this has come about, sensuousness is transfigured in spirit and anxiety is driven out. 104

This passage is significant in that it expresses an understanding of love as a transformative spiritual relation, one which does not see to eliminate the sexual (which is here taken as analogous to “the erotic,” unlike the richer meaning of “the erotic” found in Marion and used throughout this work), but rather to transform it. In other words, to put the matter more bluntly in our own idiom, the qualification of spirit enables persons to make love, rather than just having sex. This, of course, does not mean that when caught up in the crossed phenomenon of crossing fleshes and making love that persons are not having sex, but that is not the original meaning of the act they experience. Interestingly, Friedrich Nietzsche expresses a similar point, despite being commonly viewed with some justification as offering readers an essentially negative philosophy of love and one quite contrary to the more spiritual writings of Kierkegaard. In and of itself, considering Nietzsche here shows how a focus on the philosophy of love transcends theological differences. On Nietzsche’s view the passions, especially sexual desire, is not something that should be driven out of a person. “We no longer admire dentists who ‘pluck out’ teeth so that they will not hurt any more,” 105 he writes in Twilight of the Idols. And although the context is one in which Christianity is denounced, Nietzsche explains that it is “on the ground out of which Christianity grew” that “the concept of the ‘spiritualization of passion’” is formed, and “the spiritualization of sensuality is called love.” 106 A similar point is made in “The Immediate Erotic Stages” in Either/Or where Kierkegaard’s pseudonym writes: “Sensuality is posited as a principle, as a power, as an independent system first by Christianity, and to that extent Christianity brought sensuality into the world.” 107 According to Nietzsche, a central question in the philosophy of love is this: “How can one spiritualize, beautify, deify a craving?” 108 We now see how this question can also be recognized as embedded within Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love, for it is love that is the source of the movement through which a craving or longing is transformed. But in contrast to Nietzsche, Kierkegaard realizes that this movement leads essentially away from the self and toward the other. Let us now trace the direction of this movement of the heart further. NOTES 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 337. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 74. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 182. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, 134. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, 134.

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6. Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered, 225f. and 601. 7. Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered, 225-226. Stewart is here referring to Harald Høffding’s Søren Kierkegaard som Filosof [Søren Kierkegaard as Philosopher] (Copenhagen, DK: Gydendalske Boghandel, 1892), 92f. 8. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 175. 9. West, Reason and Sexuality in Western Thought, 150. 10. West, Reason and Sexuality in Western Thought, 152. 11. West, Reason and Sexuality in Western Thought, 148; Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 30. 12. See Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 9. It is interesting to note that no commentary exists devoted solely to Either/Or. 13. As “A” asks in this section, “what can more truthfully be called a woman’s life than her love?” Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 172. The theme of this essay is the reflective sorrow involved in unhappy love, and yet all of the lovers affirm the supremacy of the immediacy of life as indicated in the essay’s epigraph by Lessing: Yesterday I loved, Today I suffer, Tomorrow I die, Yet today and tomorrow I like to think Of yesterday. See Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 166. 14. I do not wish to suggest, however, that all the views presented throughout Either/Or can be simply and neatly reduced to these two viewpoints. 15. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 42. 16. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 22. 17. See Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 134-135. 18. West, Reason and Sexuality in Western Thought, 147. 19. Pia Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” Kierkegaard Studies Yearbook 2013, edited by Heiko Schulz, Jon Stewart, and Karl Verstrynge in cooperation with Peter Šajda (Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter, 2013), 289-306. 20. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 289. 21. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 290. 22. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 292. 23. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 293. 24. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 294. 25. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 59. 26. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 295. 27. Although Søltoft refers to the sensual-erotic urge as “pre-conscious” at one point (295), she also calls it “unconscious” in several other places, which raises the problem that it is not a structure of consciousness. I think it best to consider this fundamental desire or most basic form of love as pre-reflective, and thus it is still a stage of consciousness and accessible to consciousness upon reflection. Although, of course, reflected consciousness is fundamentally different from the experience of immediacy, and thus there is a fundamental ironic difficulty here. 28. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 295. 29. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 76. 30. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 77. 31. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 296. 32. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 296. 33. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 297. 34. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 293. See Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 175. 35. C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York, NY: Harcourt, Inc., 1988).


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36. Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death, translated by David Wills (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1995), 82. This is the opening line of the chapter “Tout Autre Est Tout Autre.” 37. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 299. 38. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 299. 39. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 293. 40. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 70. 41. George Pattison has recently suggested that “Kierkegaard’s reflections on the deaths of others hint at” a different metaphysics—“a possibility of a metaphysics of time and eternity other than that of onto-theology,” although he leaves it at that, and our phenomenology of love will have to do so as well. See George Pattison, “Kierkegaard, Metaphysics, and Love,” Kierkegaard Studies Yearbook 2013, edited by Heiko Schulz, Jon Stewart, and Karl Verstrynge in cooperation with Peter Šajda (Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter, 2013), 195-196. 42. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 300. 43. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 280. 44. The word “stages” has led to all sorts of problems in Kierkegaard’s writings, and within A’s essay we find this explanation: “The different stages collectively make up the immediate stage, and from this it will be seen that the specific stages are more a disclosure of a predicate . . . ” (Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 74). Thus Søltoft smartly suggests that the expression “metamorphosis” is actually more comprehensive than the expression “stage” (Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 304). 45. Søren Kierkegaard, Two Ages: The Age of Revolution and the Present Age A Literary Review, Kierkegaard’s Writings XIV, translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 49. 46. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 302. 47. See Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, §17 “The Principle of Insufficient Reason” and §18 “The Advance.” 48. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 303. 49. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 304. 50. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 94. 51. See Sharon Krishek, Kierkegaard on Faith and Love (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 189. 52. This is §36 of Marion’s The Erotic Phenomenon, 184-189. 53. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 183. 54. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 183. 55. Within the natural attitude one focuses on the instrumental value of another through the act of appraisal, but this attitude fails to experience the greater value that is manifested through an act of bestowal. 56. Søltoft, “Kierkegaard and the Sheer Phenomenon of Love,” 301. 57. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 30. See West, Reason and Sexuality in Western Thought, 148. 58. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 38. 59. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 38. 60. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 37, 39. 61. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 303. 62. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 368. 63. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 80. 64. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist, §23. Nietzsche, of course, is known to have offered multiple, even contradictory, perspectives on many key issues, and his thoughts on love are no exception. Although the negative tone is all too clear here, there is nevertheless insight into the enduring nature of love. 65. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 80. 66. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 314. 67. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 80. 68. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 332. 69. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 80-81.

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70. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 368. 71. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 316. 72. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 327. 73. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 52. 74. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 61. 75. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 52. 76. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 52. 77. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 118. 78. This phenomenological fact raises an obvious theological challenge for the central Christian claim that “God is love.” Although the question of the phenomenology of love of God will be considered below, one might find this fact as a reason for agreeing with Spinoza that, strictly speaking, God does not love us (E5p17c). His reasoning is different, but perhaps still related, insofar as love is conceived as an emotion, and emotions are transformations from weaker to greater, and greater to weaker, states of power. Since God is perfect—and Kierkegaard would surely agree with this and God’s unchangeableness—he can suffer no transformations and thus not love. Nevertheless, Spinoza still finds a way to account for the love of God, such that it manifests itself when human beings love each other (since we are in Spinoza’s view all modes of God). Spinoza writes: “From this we clearly understand in what our salvation or blessedness or freedom consists, namely, in the constant and eternal love towards God, that is, in God’s love towards men” (E5p36s). Within Kierkegaard’s account, which we recognize as saturated with Christian theological concerns, that God is love is axiomatic, and thus in light of the phenomenological fact under discussion, we could see how the incarnation would be necessary for God to love us in a strict sense. Be that as it may, Kierkegaard, like Spinoza, ultimately views us as “God’s co-workers in love,” and it is because our love should be modelled on God’s love that we are told to transform preferential love—“because for God there is no preference.” Interestingly, this is a point that would also sit well with Spinoza. The relevant passage in Kierkegaard’s Works of Love is this: But God is Love, and therefore we can be like God only in loving, just as we also, according to the words of the apostle, can only be God’s co-workers—in love. Insofar as you love the beloved, you are not like God, because for God there is no preference . . . . Insofar as you love your friend, you are not like God, because for God there is no distinction. But when you love the neighbor, then you are like God. (62-63) 79. Given the context of the discussion on the male seducers Don Juan and Johannes, I will use masculine pronouns to refer to the lover here, noting, of course, that female seducers are not thereby excluded and the general discussion applies to them as well. 80. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 313. 81. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 82. 82. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 82-83. 83. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 212. 84. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 41. In “Diapsalmata” we also read: “I have never been joyful, and yet it has always seemed as if joy were my constant companion” (40). 85. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 416. 86. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 416. 87. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 416. 88. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 1. 89. These norms could obviously be challenged today, such as kisses between men being in bad taste, and kisses from an elderly man to young girls. See Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 416. 90. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 416. 91. Note that the French word Marion uses here is baiser, which can mean both “to kiss”/“a kiss” and “to fuck”/“a fuck.” See Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 124, and the translator’s note at the bottom of the page.


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92. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 124. 93. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 124. 94. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 124. 95. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 124. 96. See Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 214. 97. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 126-127. 98. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 127. 99. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 128. 100. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 128. 101. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 406. 102. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 128. 103. Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety, Kierkegaard’s Writings VIII, edited and translated by Reidar Thomte in collaboration with Albert B. Anderson (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980), 81. 104. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety, 80. 105. Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, in The Portable Nietzsche, edited and translated by Walter Kaufmann (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1982), 487. 106. Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 488. 107. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 61. 108. Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 487.

Chapter Four

Love’s Intentionality

Love is everything; therefore, for one who loves everything ceases to have intrinsic meaning and has meaning only through the interpretation love gives to it. —Johannes 1 No other relationship between human beings lays claim to the ideality that love does. —The Young Man 2 When love lies in the heart, the eye has the power to love forth the good in the impure, but this eye sees not the impure but the pure, which it loves and loves forth by loving it. —Kierkegaard 3

READING KIERKEGAARD’S PHILOSOPHY OF LOVE AS FIRST PHENOMENOLOGY Having considered love’s incitement and love’s immediacy, I shall now focus on love’s intentionality. Thus, I shall continue to investigate the phenomenology of the experience of loving another, but now focus more particularly on how the lover directs him- or herself to the beloved. In order to accomplish this task, I shall analyze Kierkegaard’s earliest direct and sustained writing on love in his Upbuilding Discourses from 1843 devoted to the theme “love hides a multitude of sins,” and this analysis will be contextualized by the question of Kierkegaard’s relation to the phenomenological tradition, which will now be made more explicit.



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The question of Kierkegaard’s relation to phenomenology has been the subject of significant contemporary scholarship, most notably seen in the recent collection of essays edited by Jeffrey Hanson entitled Kierkegaard as Phenomenologist: An Experiment (2010) and Claudia Welz’s entry on “Kierkegaard and Phenomenology” in The Oxford Handbook of Kierkegaard. 4 Thus, my reason for beginning with this focus is not simply a desire to pursue one of the latest directions of Kierkegaard studies, but rather because I think there is a promising way of reading Kierkegaard phenomenologically that will be especially useful in understanding the philosophy of love in Kierkegaard’s writings. For Kierkegaard, as I shall suggest, the phenomenology of love may be read as a kind of “first phenomenology,” one which has a primarily ethical—or, if you like, ethical-religious—focus, rather than the epistemological one that is found in traditional Husserlian phenomenology, the goal of which is to ground knowledge. This is the great promise of Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of love, as I shall show that for Kierkegaard the loveworld prefigures the lifeworld and then try to make good on the claim that Kierkegaard’s phenomenology is better understood in light of those thinkers who actually center their philosophy on the phenomenon of love. Through an analysis of Kierkegaard’s earliest Upbuilding Discourses and the deliberation on the same theme in Works of Love, I shall be able to ground Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of love by showing how Kierkegaard’s writings exhibit an “erotic,” or if you prefer “loving,” reduction that brackets sin. As we shall see, however, this interpretation will bring into question the relationship between love and forgiveness, since the primary experience of love makes forgiveness a derivative phenomenon occasioned by a recognition of sin, which belongs to the natural attitude and not the phenomenological attitude understood in love’s intentionality. Consequently, this problem will also be addressed in this chapter. In Hanson’s “Introduction” to Kierkegaard as Phenomenologist there is the following very fruitful and suggestive claim: “If Kierkegaard is a phenomenologist, then, he is a phenomenologist of love.” 5 The philosophical import of this claim is in my view fundamentally sound, which is why it is rather surprising to find little later in the collection of essays that can ground what we may call Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of love. It would be especially interesting to see how Kierkegaard’s thinking exhibits a phenomenology of love in light of those thinkers who clearly center their phenomenological writings on the nature of love. These thinkers are of course not the more widely read phenomenologists such as Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre, but rather, Max Scheler, Dietrich von Hildebrand, and as we have already started to see, Jean-Luc Marion. Thus, in this chapter I shall attempt to ground the discussion by showing how Kierkegaard’s writings—particularly his earliest Upbuilding Discourses and Works of Love— exhibit an ordo amoris (order of love) as found in Scheler’s work and entail

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an “erotic reduction” as found in Marion’s The Erotic Phenomenon, which has already been foregrounded in the previous chapter. After this, we shall be in a better position to judge how Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of love prefigures the contemporary discussion as well as how it may offer possibilities for taking it further. CLEARING THE WAY FROM THE LIFEWORLD TO THE LOVEWORLD The most substantial contribution to understanding Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist of love found in the Kierkegaard as Phenomenologist collection is Mark Dooley’s essay “Kierkegaard: Reenchanting the Lebenswelt.” Overall, Dooley offers readers important insights into the discussion and there is much to agree with in his work. Specifically, he argues that “Kierkegaard anticipates the later Husserl as a phenomenologist of the lifeworld” 6 and that it is “plausible to interpret Kierkegaard’s as a phenomenology of love.” 7 Dooley makes the case that in contrast to objective knowledge, Kierkegaard offers readers “a form of intentional understanding” called “ethical-religious knowing.” 8 He explains: Ethical and religious knowledge is “essential knowing” because it arises from the realm of value. It does not give us technical information, nor is it of any utilitarian significance, but answers to our longing for meaning. It is knowledge of how to live and what to do, of how to make one’s existence worthwhile and an example to emulate. Essential knowing is, thus a form of understanding that answers to our needs as persons or free beings in an otherwise determined world. 9

This quotation is significant not only for the ideas it expresses, but also for the way it highlights connections that could be made to the phenomenology of love found in Husserl’s contemporaries Max Scheler and Dietrich von Hildebrand. Although Dooley neither notes nor develops these connections, a cursory glance at the writings of Scheler and von Hildebrand—major figures in the development of the philosophy of personalism—shows that love is essentially a “value-response.” Together with Kierkegaard, these thinkers understand love to be an essentially ethical phenomenon involving a transformative act of the consciousness of a person whereby the value of the other manifests itself. As surprising as it may seem, while Scheler and von Hildebrand arguably partake of the same vision of love found in Kierkegaard’s analysis of the essential ethical seeing involved in loving one’s neighbor, scant attention has been given to their work. Thus, although an extended


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comparative study lies beyond the scope of this work and must remain a future project, it may nevertheless be helpful to highlight some of the key elements of the phenomenology of love in Scheler and von Hildebrand. The main focus of Dooley’s argument is to show how Kierkegaard’s criticism of the present age found in Judge for Yourself! and Two Ages expresses a critique similar to the one found in the later Husserl’s The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, the goal of which was to uncover “the pregivenness of the lifeworld: its intentional meaning for man in his becoming in the mundane world.” 10 Thus Dooley argues that we have “sacrificed the sacred” and need to reenchant and repersonalize the lifeworld (Lebenswelt) by “reinstating the human subject at the center of the archive of knowledge.” 11 While Dooley’s argument is clearly relevant to a discussion of Kierkegaard and phenomenology, readers may wonder how a negative critique of one’s present age and the general goal of making life more meaningful is enough to establish soundly Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of love. Thus, both above and in what follows, I attempt to provide a more direct account of how Kierkegaard’s writings may be read phenomenologically. For Kierkegaard, as I intend to show, the goal is not specifically to uncover “the pregivenness of the lifeworld,” but rather to make manifest the pregiveness of the loveworld—for as expressed in the preface to Works of Love, love is “essentially . . . totally present everywhere.” 12 Thus, a Kierkegaardian phenomenology of love does not strictly involve, as Dooley claims, a form of intentional understanding that “is content to settle on the surface of the human world,” 13 but rather it involves an intentional understanding marked by a fundamental ontological presupposition that love is present at the depth of our being, and this points to the idea of a “first phenomenology” that would show both the lifeworld and the objective world to be derivative in relation to a primordial loveworld. Such is the impact of Kierkegaard’s fundamental presupposition, which may be seen as somewhat at odds with Husserl’s attempt to remain free of all presuppositions, 14 although we all now know that Husserl was not successful in this regard, 15 as he too presupposed an original presence or givenness which has more to do with the self than with love. As we shall see, Kierkegaard’s understanding of the phenomenon of love is much more in line with Scheler’s and Marion’s work in that it involves the more radical givenness of love. Thus, it is relevant to ask why we should focus the initial discussion of Kierkegaard and phenomenology on Husserl or Heidegger and not Scheler. This question becomes especially pointed when we agree that Kierkegaard’s phenomenology is a phenomenology of love. Both Hanson and Dooley make the initial connection by referring to Lev Shestov, a friend of Husserl’s who “would later argue that one cannot properly understand Husserl without coming to grips with his enthusiasm for Kierkegaard.” 16 This is a remarkable

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claim, but given that neither Hanson nor Dooley rehearses or evaluates Shestov’s argument, we may be inclined to think that there is more semblance than substance in this regard. We may then note a connection to a more prominent, but less loyal friend of Husserl’s, namely Martin Heidegger. Although it is uncontroversial to note that Heidegger generally neglects the philosophy of love, there is at least one revealing exception that arises in Being and Time. In his initial discussion of “Being there as State-of-mind” (¶29), which precedes the Kierkegaard-influenced “Interpretation of anxiety as such a basic state-of-mind,” 17 Heidegger refers to the “affects” and shows an awareness of the view that love is the only gateway to truth. Heidegger writes: It has been one of the merits of phenomenological research that it has again brought these phenomena more unrestrictedly into our sight. Not only that: Scheler, accepting the challenges of Augustine and Pascal, has guided the problematic to a consideration of how acts which “represent” and acts which “take an interest” are interconnected in their foundations. But even here the existential-ontological foundations of the phenomenon of the act in general are admittedly still obscure. 18

This brief passage and Heidegger’s note in the text to quotations from Augustine and Pascal raise a number of interesting points. First, we find expressed the value of a phenomenological approach for studying the “affects,” of which love (or “charity”) is presumably the most momentous as it serves as the foundation for truth and knowledge. 19 Next, we see that Scheler is significant for such a phenomenological investigation, one that Heidegger held to be beyond the problematic of his own investigation. 20 Finally, we understand that this area of investigation is in need of more work in order for it to emerge out of the realm of obscurity. When we look at the now well-known footnotes to Kierkegaard in Heidegger’s Being and Time, we find that these are significant not for the simple fact that Heidegger refers to Kierkegaard, but for the sense in which they help us to consider Kierkegaard’s relevance to phenomenology. For Heidegger, Kierkegaard is “the man who has gone farthest in analyzing the phenomenon of anxiety—and again in the theological context of a ‘psychological’ exposition of the problem of original sin” 21 and thus Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety might seem an appropriate starting point to address the question of Kierkegaard’s relation to phenomenology. However, in Heidegger’s next note on Kierkegaard he states how Kierkegaard’s ontology was “completely dominated by Hegel” and “thus, there is more to be learned philosophically from his ‘edifying’ writings than from his theoretical ones.” 22 Given that for Heidegger philosophy is “universal phenomenological ontology,” 23 might we not be justified in pursuing the idea that if we want to learn phenomenologically from Kierkegaard, then we do well to consider


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his edifying, veronymous writings? As we shall see, this path will prove to be quite fruitful, although as evidenced above I do not thereby want to suggest that there is nothing to be learned phenomenologically from Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous writings or his earlier writings. Quite to the contrary, although I shall not pursue it here, I think that an argument could be made to show how Kierkegaard’s method of indirect communication is based on an astute phenomenological awareness of the intentionality of reading, and in addition to The Concept of Anxiety, there are more fruitful paths of interpretation that can be found in specific pseudonymous texts that very clearly illustrate multiple intentional stances, of which loving is nevertheless most prominent. A GLANCE AT THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF LOVE IN SCHELER AND VON HILDEBRAND Let me pose the question again: in considering the relationship between Kierkegaard and phenomenology why not begin with Max Scheler? Consider, first, that for Kierkegaard Works of Love begins by trying to attune readers to “Love’s Hidden Life.” 24 Now consider that for Scheler phenomenology is essentially a means of “spiritual seeing . . . something which otherwise remained hidden,” 25 and further, that in contrast to Husserl’s view of phenomenology as a purely methodological pursuit of essences, Scheler viewed phenomenology as an intrinsically ethical approach that was based on love or the movement of the heart. Like Kierkegaard, but quite unlike Husserl and Heidegger, Scheler’s major writings are clearly centered on love. Although never completed, Max Scheler’s early essay “Ordo Amoris” (“The Order of Love,” 1916) could and should have been incorporated into his greatest work, Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values (1913–1916), 26 but we also find that his investigations into the phenomenon of love are developed more fully in The Nature of Sympathy (1913) and Ressentiment (1912). Overall, Scheler views love as a non-static concept and an a priori movement. This general conception agrees with Kierkegaard’s distinctly ethical conception in that, first, love is not a state, but an action or work, 27 and, second, the source of love is a priori. All of this gives us good reason to analyze Scheler’s phenomenology of love further. In The Nature of Sympathy Scheler makes clear that love is not simply a passive feeling or “just a reaction” to a particular object. While maintaining the impossibility of defining “love,” Scheler can still express its essence: “love is that movement of intention whereby, from a given value A, in an object, its higher value is visualized. Moreover, it is just this vision of a higher value that is the essence of love.” 28 Thus love is a transformative act,

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an inner movement, whereby a higher value manifests itself. “In acting like this, love in the literal sense is an emotion ‘which leads us out of and beyond ourselves.’” 29 This phenomenological conception of love is distinct from what we would ordinarily consider a “natural” or psychological conception, and we shall see below that Kierkegaard also understands love in a phenomenologically distinct way that is beyond a natural conception. For Scheler, the common conception of love is more like the ancient conception whereas the “active” phenomenological conception of love agrees with the Christian conception. In Ressentiment, Scheler neatly summarizes the history of the value of love, while maintaining that Nietzsche has failed to appreciate “the revolutionary character of the change which leads from the ancient to the Christian idea of love,” 30 and herein lies the root of Nietzsche’s “completely mistaken” view. 31 In Scheler’s analysis there are three significant distinctions between the ancient—the Greek and Roman—conception of love and the Christian conception. First, the ancients conceived eros and amor as a sensual phenomenon rooted in desire, whereas “Christian love is a spiritual intentionality which transcends the natural sphere, defeating and superseding the psychological mechanism of the natural instincts.” 32 For Scheler this view of the ancients leads to “the extremely questionable . . . division of human nature into ‘reason’ and ‘sensuality,’” 33 but does he not see that the Christian conception leads to a comparable division between “spirit” and “nature”? Is there any way to fuse this division? A second distinction to be found in Scheler’s account may be related to responding to these difficult questions, for the ancients considered various forms of love as continuous, whereas the Christian view seemingly creates a sharp divide between agape and eros, a point which is problematic in Kierkegaard (i.e., understanding the relationship between Elskov and Kjerlighed) and something that Marion’s work seeks to overcome. 34 The third, and most important difference for Scheler “between the ancient and Christian views of love lies in the direction of its movement.” 35 The ancient view has love ambitiously striving from a “lower” to a “higher” state—and consequently a perfect God cannot love—while the Christian view reverses the movement of love from the higher to the lower. This does not mean that one thereby loses the higher, but that the higher, the summum bonum, is already present and manifested in the spiritual act of serving the “lower” (e.g., the vulgar, sick, or poor others). Scheler insightfully explains how this change in the movement of love leads to a change in the conception of God (and not the other way around), for now God’s essence “is to love and serve.” 36 On this view one is not striving to reach “God,” understood as the highest being independent of the physical world. Instead, through enacting love in the world one “becomes equal to God.” 37 Scheler


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writes: “And thus God himself becomes a ‘person’ who has no ‘idea of the good,’ no ‘form and order,’ no λόγος above him, but only below him— through his deed of love.” 38 While we have already seen points of convergence between Kierkegaard’s conception of love and the Socratic-Platonic conception, Kierkegaard nevertheless diverges with regard to the direction of the movement when considering what is meant by the Christian view of love. Here he offers a view of Christian love comparable to Scheler’s position. In the discourse “Our Duty to Love the People We See” in Works of Love Kierkegaard writes: “Alas, but even the wisest and most ingenious purely human view of love is still something high-flying, something vague; Christian love, however, comes down from heaven to earth. Thus the direction is the opposite.” 39 Scheler’s philosophy of love is initially developed in his essay “Ordo Amoris,” which, as has already been mentioned, presents a non-static conception of love as an a priori movement. Unfortunately, Scheler never completed this work, and the text breaks off at significant places. Nevertheless, this text yields insight into Scheler’s a priori ethics of love. Scheler makes the intuitive sense of “Ordo Amoris” clear in the opening pages of the text. From the outset it is understood as primary and foundational for all acts: “I know that the objects I can recognize through perception and thought, as well as all that I will, choose, do, perform, and accomplish, depend on the play of this movement of my heart.” 40 The foundation of the heart is also evident in Kierkegaard, as he makes this clear in the first chapter of Works of Love: It is said of certain plants that they must form a heart. In like manner one may also say of a person’s love: If it is actually to bear fruit and thus be known by its fruit, it must first of all form a heart. It is true that love proceeds from the heart, but let us not be hasty about this and forget the eternal truth that love forms the heart. 41

Not only does Kierkegaard complement Scheler’s view here, but he also provides a deepening for our understanding of love’s intentionality by expressing the formative role that love plays. Scheler then makes explicit the “idea of a correct and true ordo amoris,” which is “the idea of a strictly objective realm independent of man, the objective order of what is worthy of love in all things, something we can only recognize, but cannot ‘posit,’ produce, or make.” 42 Scheler will go on to speak of confusions of this order, and he is keenly interested in discovering “how the correct ordo amoris can be restored.” 43 This question, he tells us, “belongs to pedagogy . . . and to the therapeutic technique for human salvation,” 44 and it no doubt involves “forming the heart in the eternal sense” 45 as explained by Kierkegaard.

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When Scheler turns to examine “the form of correct ordo amoris” he refers to his other work (i.e., The Nature of Sympathy), where the essence of love was treated in detail. Here he expresses the essence significantly as follows: “the act that seeks to lead everything in the direction of the perfection of value proper to it—and succeeds, when no obstacles are present. Thus we defined the essence of love as an edifying and upbuilding [erbauende und aufbauende] action in and over the world.” 46 Here too we find that Scheler’s vision of the phenomenon is in agreement with Kierkegaard, for whom the significance of love’s edification can hardly be overstated. In Works of Love Kierkegaard explains that “building up is exclusively characteristic of love,” 47 and “to edify means to presuppose love; to be loving means to presuppose love; only love builds up.” 48 Nevertheless, Scheler quotes Goethe rather than Kierkegaard for support: “Who in stillness looks about him, learns how love uplifts.” 49 Scheler then further characterizes love as “the universal power active in and on everything . . . a dynamic becoming, a growing, a welling up of things in the direction of their archetype, which resides in God.” 50 Thus, for Scheler, the inference that “God is love” is clear. A friend of Scheler’s and a student of Husserl’s who has also given us a rich phenomenological account of love is Dietrich von Hildebrand. His major work, The Nature of Love (1971), has not yet been given its due in philosophical circles and unfortunately I shall only be able to deal with it rather briefly here. What is central to von Hildebrand’s view is that love is a “valueresponse.” 51 He writes that “love in the most proper and immediate sense is love for another person,” 52 a point which we must take to heart and continue to bear in mind when we later consider the possibility of self-love. 53 He further explains that “it is essential for every kind of love that the beloved person stands before me as precious, beautiful, lovable,” and we do well to recall that for Kierkegaard the lover’s task involves finding “the once given or chosen object—lovable, and to be able to continue to find him lovable no matter how he is changed.” 54 In other words, as von Hildebrand explains, we see the other person as “objectively worthy of being loved.” 55 Understanding the phenomenon of love as a value-response means that love does not require “the phenomenon of fulfillment as found in the love between man and woman, or the phenomenon of being objectively ordained whether to love itself or to some particular person.” 56 What is required, however, is the transcendence of the other person. Von Hildebrand writes: “Only the value given in another person explains love with its unique way of turning to the other, as well as the solidarity with the other that comes from love. Every attempt to find any other explanation leads unavoidably to a distortion of the nature of love.” 57 Although there are a few references to Kierkegaard in Scheler’s and von Hildebrand’s writings, readers will not find any extended analysis. Nevertheless, it seems that it is not off track to find in Kierkegaard’s analysis of the love of the neighbor, which is “what thinkers call ‘the other,’” 58 a description


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of the objective value of the other, and that this is found not through natural, empirical observation, but rather through a phenomenological seeing that we may describe as love’s intentionality, involving the erotic reduction, which sees “the inner glory, the equality of the glory” 59 in the other person and makes manifest the value that “continually glimmers” “in each individual.” 60 Consider the following metaphorical description in Works of Love: In being king, beggar, rich man, poor man, male, female, etc., we are not like each other—therein we are indeed different. But in being the neighbor we are all unconditionally like each other. Dissimilarity is temporality’s method of confusing that marks every human being differently, but the neighbor is eternity’s mark—on every human being. Take many sheets of paper, write something different on each one; then no one will be like another. But then again take each single sheet; do not let yourself be confused by the diverse inscriptions, hold it up to the light, and you will see a common watermark on all of them. In the same way the neighbor is the common watermark, but you see it only by means of eternity’s light when it shines through the dissimilarity. 61

Is it not possible to read this description of the common watermark, a hidden mark of love, as a loving expression of the value response to each person? Further, can we not see within this beautiful passage that Kierkegaard is expressing a phenomenological attitude that “brackets” or suspends dissimilarities? Of course, this does not entail that one does not actually see the surface dissimilarities, but rather that through one’s attitude toward the other one puts them out of play or nullifies their effect, so that one does not overlook the essential value of the person. It is crucial to understand that Kierkegaard’s analysis of loving the neighbor is essentially concerned with changing or perfecting one’s attitude toward the other and not in eliminating an appreciation of the other’s individual differences—as if this were even possible. Kierkegaard writes: “Every individual in this innumerable throng is by his differences a particular something; he exhibits a definiteness but essentially he is something other than this—but this we do not get to see in life.” 62 And he further explains that “to love the neighbor is, while remaining in the earthly dissimilarity allotted to one, essentially to will to exist equally for unconditionally every human being.” 63 The all-important point, then, is to be “victorious over [one’s] mind in such a way” 64 that the value that is attributed to the other is not dependent upon the other’s earthly cloak, whatever that may be. Kierkegaard acknowledges that the mental strength required in loving one’s neighbor is “undeniably a considerable span of the wings, but it is not a proud flight that soars above the world; it is self-denial’s humble and difficult flight along the ground.” 65 Thus the difficult task involves manifesting the eternal in our everyday encounters with others, all of whom are our neighbors.

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READING THE EDIFYING DISCOURSES PHENOMENOLOGICALLY In George Pattison’s Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Discourses, he addresses the possibility of reading the discourses phenomenologically. He notes initially that “there are many places where Kierkegaard seems to speak the language of phenomenology,” 66 and he cites in particular On the Concept of Irony as pervasively phenomenological, although this is not the only example given. “With regards to the discourses,” Pattison writes, “a phenomenological approach seems plausible and even fruitful insofar as it allows for the unfolding of their actual content,” 67 and he reviews some of the recent literature that makes strong cases for reading Kierkegaard phenomenologically. For example, Arnold B. Come identifies what he describes as a “phenomenological commitment” in Kierkegaard’s writings, such that “nothing in the thinking and writing of Kierkegaard is ever finished or closed, but everything is always open and running out to unseen horizons,” 68 and this indeed provides a nice opening for a point of view on Kierkegaard’s work that sees it as a first phenomenology of love, which is understood as always and everywhere a fullness overflowing in its richness. Further, as Pattison explains, Arne Grøn finds that Kierkegaard can be understood as a phenomenologist in that he provides “examples of a descriptive and analytic presentation of forms of consciousness,” and his “phenomenological descriptions play a role that is no less decisive than it is overlooked.” 69 Grøn, however, focuses his interpretation on The Concept of Anxiety and The Sickness Unto Death, both of which can be read as descriptions on intentional states that are without love or have not yet performed the erotic reduction, and thus in a negative sense they also point to a view of Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist of love. Despite what appears to be a strong multifaceted argument supporting a phenomenological reading of Kierkegaard, Pattison ultimately, and I think surprisingly, rejects this approach. He writes: Now, nothing that has been said here can count decisively for or against this or any other particular version of phenomenology, but my objections to reading Kierkegaard phenomenologically do suggest a fundamental difficulty confronting any attempt to develop phenomenology in the direction of theology, i.e. as a means of elucidating the groundedness of human existence in God. For to the extent that God is thought in His/Its radical distinctiveness from created beings, it would seem that no phenomenology, and, for that matter, no general ontology, is going to be in a position to provide a unitary account of God and creature. 70


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Why do these objections count against a phenomenological reading of Kierkegaard’s texts? We can agree that reading Kierkegaard phenomenologically is “plausible and fruitful”; and I think we can agree with the fundamental difficulty in providing a phenomenological theology, 71 but again, how would this lead to a rejection of a phenomenological reading of Kierkegaard’s texts? Only if we view Kierkegaard as endeavoring to construct such a theology does such a difficulty arise, but interpreting Kierkegaard as instead offering a phenomenology of love avoids such a difficulty, and there is no reason against finding here an ontological view showing us the way things really are. Surely, we can agree that phenomenology cannot account for God, and thus must methodologically bracket this direction, such that when we find Kierkegaard venturing in this direction we may be alerted to the problems of such an account. Nowhere am I suggesting that Kierkegaard is a perfect phenomenologist, but when he focuses on the love relationship and invokes an erotic reduction throughout his writings he can be seen to provide a rich and fruitful phenomenology of love. The human experience of love is the central presupposition in Kierkegaard’s “Upbuilding Discourses.” In fact, given Kierkegaard’s explanation of “Love Builds Up” in Works of Love, we have every reason to believe that love must be presupposed in these discourses for them to be considered edifying, since “the love presupposition” is the sufficient reason for something—whatever act is done or word is spoken—to be edifying. Let us now consider Three Edifying Discourses, which was published in the same year as Either/Or, and on the same day as Fear and Trembling and Repetition, October 16, 1843. Kierkegaard opens the first discourse on “Love Will Hide a Multitude of Sins” by praising love in a manner that could hardly be more emphatic: What is it that makes a person great, admired by creation, well pleasing in the eyes of God? What is it that makes a person strong, stronger than the whole world; what is it that makes him weak, weaker than a child? . . . What is it that is older than everything? It is love. What is it that outlives everything? It is love. What is it that cannot be taken but itself takes all? It is love. What is it that cannot be given but itself gives all? It is love. What is it that perseveres when everything falls away? It is love. What is it that comforts when all comfort fails? It is love. What is it that endures when everything is changed? It is love. What is it that remains when the imperfect is abolished? It is love. . . . What is it that does not cease when the vision ends? It is love. What is it that sheds light when the dark saying ends? It is love. What is it that gives blessing to the abundance of the gift? It is love. . . . What is it that makes the widow’s gift an abundance? It is love. What is it that turns the words of the simple person into wisdom? It is love. What is it that is never changed even though everything is changed? It is love; and that alone is love, that which never becomes something else. 72

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A stronger, more poetic, more devoted praise of love will not be easily found, and within the history of philosophy it can scarcely be found. The initial impression made by this passage corroborates the point that the upbuilding discourses are essentially rhetorical works. 73 Together with “the love presupposition” this implies no doubt that Kierkegaard is more concerned here with motivating his readers to action, or in his own terms he is more focused on the “how” rather than the “what,” but this does not imply that he is entirely unconcerned with the conception of love, and the passage surely points to an overly saturated conception. Thus even though the force of the upbuilding discourses is rhetorical and the focus is on the “how,” this does not preclude these discourses from expressing a conception of love. As we have seen above, the question of Kierkegaard’s own methodology and its relatedness to phenomenology has been considered recently by many prominent Kierkegaard scholars, but none of them have seen Marion’s phenomenological description of the radical erotic reduction as a lens to view what Kierkegaard is doing. Certainly, there are many lenses through which one may approach Kierkegaard, so I would never suggest that this approach is the only way. Nevertheless, I see it as a fruitful and important approach, which is perhaps as much as one may hope in good faith. Although Marion develops original nomenclature, it would be wrong-headed to think that he thereby invents the erotic reduction. Rather, his description highlights an approach to existence and experience that is ironically rarely pursued by philosophers, although I find that Kierkegaard maintains this kind of approach, not merely here or there in his writings, but relatively consistently throughout his body of work. In other words, as I wish to argue, Kierkegaard is performing a first philosophy, or perhaps better, a first phenomenology, which is structured on love and focused principally on the question “How do I become a lover?” GROUNDING KIERKEGAARD’S PHENOMENOLOGY OF LOVE Thus far I have suggested that the discussion of Kierkegaard and phenomenology should be centered on the phenomenology of love, in which case Scheler’s work and his fundamentally ethical conception of phenomenology become most significant. However, someone might object that although this suggestion is more advantageous than the attempt to link Kierkegaard and Husserlian phenomenology, what is still needed is an explicit analysis of Kierkegaard’s writings that shows how he may be read as clearly exhibiting a phenomenology of love. In other words, in considering Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist of love, is it possible to start with his texts and see whether he performs an erotic reduction—or perhaps we could call it a “loving reduc-


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tion” in order to distinguish Kierkegaard’s view—in his work? If we can answer this question affirmatively, then this will present us with our strongest argument for reading Kierkegaard phenomenologically. Very significantly, I think, we need look no further than Kierkegaard’s earliest veronymous writing on love in Three Edifying Discourses (1843) as well as the parallel discourse in Works of Love (1847) on the same theme to find him enacting such a “loving reduction,” one that leads not only beyond sin, but beyond the self as well. These writings, which focus on the theme “love will hide a multitude of sins,” may be seen as initiating a phenomenology of love, for readers are entreated to look through the “eye of love,” a metaphorical expression that alludes to a shifted perspective leading beyond the natural attitude, which surely sees the multitude of sins as clear as the noonday sun. Prefiguring Marion’s contrast between the natural attitude and the attitude of the lover, Kierkegaard writes in the first discourse: “It does not depend, then, merely upon what one sees, but what one sees depends upon how one sees; all observation is not just a receiving, a discovering, but also a bringing forth, and insofar as it is that, how the observer himself is constituted is indeed decisive.” 74 Lovers, of course, are constituted by love, and thus their acts bring forth love; they “love up” (elske op) love—an expression found both here and in Works of Love, where the “upbuilding” is ultimately explained as the “uploving.” 75 One way in which the lover is constituted in perfection is through acts of love that entice love forth and conversely hide sin. In the Upbuilding Discourses on “love hides a multitude of sins,” which could plausibly be retitled “love brackets a multitude of sins,” Kierkegaard develops important concerns that will be reworked in part 2, chapter 5, of Works of Love. When read together, one will likely conclude that the later text offers a better organized presentation, as five specific ways of love’s hiding a multitude of sin are outlined. Put briefly, the ways discussed in Works of Love are: (1) not discovering sin, (2) being silent about sin, (3) providing a mitigating explanation for sin, (4) forgiving sin, and (5) loving in order to give occasion to love and not to sin. 76 In the Upbuilding Discourses, however, the primary focus is on (1) not discovering sin, while there is some consideration of (4) forgiveness and a hint of (5) loving forth love. Let us turn our attention now to the first way that love hides a multitude of sins through not discovering them. Discover not sin. It is significant that this way of love is central in the Upbuilding Discourses and identified first in Works of Love, for it involves the lover being originarily constituted by love in the heart, while the other ways—with the exception of (5) which can arguably be interpreted as a variation on (1)—come about derivatively through a sinking into the natural attitude. Further exhibiting a phenomenological perspective on love, Kierkegaard writes: “a person’s inner being determines what he discovers and what

Love’s Intentionality


he hides.” 77 Thus Kierkegaard recognizes how the intentionality of one’s consciousness of the other will constitute the lived experience of the encounter. For the person constituted in his or her inner being by love, in short the lover, “the eye is shut and does not discover the open act of sin.” 78 If we wish to relate this to Marion’s phenomenological definition of love, which however does not involve a reflection on sin, we might be tempted to say that the invisible gaze of the lover leads to an experience of the other shrouded by the invisibility of sin. 79 One will of course object that this act of loving which hides the multitude of sins is delusional and false, for after all, there are a multitude of sins, and how terrible this actually is! In Works of Love Kierkegaard writes that “what the world actually admires as sagacity is knowledge of evil,” but “the one who loves does not have and does not want to have knowledge of evil.” 80 Thus, the lover is like a child, further suggesting a foundational intentionality of love. Moreover, in the Upbuilding Discourses Kierkegaard writes that “the love that hides a multitude of sins is never deceived,” 81 and we may ask, following Marion, by what right does the non-lover who does not see what the lover sees—who does not experience the other as lovable—actually claim to see better, when the non-lover—the discover of sin, one not constituted by love, but at best reciprocity and at worst hatred—does not even see what the lover sees, does not even catch a glimpse of it? As we have seen above, Marion’s text provides some helpful illumination here, for he understands the lover’s initiative and identifies the phenomenological rule in “which the anticipation of loving first allows one to see at last such and such an other, for the anticipation to love first sees her as lovable and unique, while otherwise she disappears into commerce and reciprocity.” 82 Thus without the advance of the lover, the other disappears into sin, but “it is precisely by having covered the multiplicity of sin in advance that the love covers it.” 83 THE PROBLEM OF FORGIVENESS Now, we must recognize that if it were possible to be perfectly constituted in love, to be a perfect lover, to be all-powerful in loving forth love, then the other ways of hiding sin would not be needed. It seems, however, that Kierkegaard recognizes this—what we may consider a slipping back into the natural attitude—for in Works of Love he discusses the ways love can hide a multitude of sins when one “cannot avoid seeing or hearing” them. The ways are these: “it hides in silence, in a mitigating explanation, in forgiveness.” 84 As explained above, only the way of forgiveness is included in the early Upbuilding Discourses, and in explaining the power of love Kierkegaard writes: “Love could forgive seventy times seven times, and sin grew weary of occasioning forgiveness more quickly than love grew weary of forgiv-


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ing.” 85 Initially, one may think that the relationship between love and forgiveness that seems to emerge here is that forgiveness comes from love or that love gives rise to forgiveness. But is this phenomenologically accurate? How does this fit with the earlier deliberation on love not discovering sin to begin with because the eye of the lover “love[s] forth the good in the impure, but this eye sees not the impure but the pure, which it loves and loves forth by loving it”? 86 We have a problem here, because for the lover who only sees the other as lovable there is no occasion for forgiveness, since no sins are discovered. Consequently, we must reason that it is not accurate to see love as the occasion of forgiveness, because from within the “loving reduction”—or when one is actively loving forth love—forgiveness becomes impossible since there is nothing to forgive. Only when we forget ourselves as lovers, only when we fail to maintain our advance of love, however momentarily, does sin enter the picture and forgiveness become necessary. It is thus clear that forgiveness is a derivative phenomenon occasioned not by love, but by the recognition of sin, which most surely marks a quite different intentional act. However, through a recovery of love or a repetition of the decisive advance to love we can remove the sin, and this is what we must mean when we speak of pure forgiveness. Although perhaps more often than not where forgiveness is concerned, one remains in the natural attitude and invokes a conditional forgiveness within the realm of commerce and reciprocity, but such forgiveness has nothing to do with love. Kierkegaard is clearly focused on pure forgiveness, beyond reciprocity and beyond punishment, as suggested in both Works of Love and the first Upbuilding Discourse, which ends with the admonition that “the punishment of sin breeds new sin, but love hides a multitude of sins.” 87 This is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than in the erotic story that Kierkegaard turns to at the end of the Upbuilding Discourses on love hiding a multitude of sins. It is the story of the encounter between Jesus and “the sinful woman,” and we shall return to this story below. I want to be clear, however, in maintaining that by considering forgiveness as a derivative phenomenon I do not intend to somehow diminish its significance. Rather, this point should be understand in the context of a phenomenological analysis in which “derivative” is not a pejorative term; and in a manner similar to the way Husserl and Heidegger understand science or objective knowledge to be derivative, this does not mean that we should reject forgiveness, any more than we should reject science. Instead, I would ask readers to consider their purest experiences of loving another and whether forgiveness is found in such an experience. I expect that when forgiveness occurs it is always within an initial experience of pain, which is surely distinct from an experience of love. It is also worth mentioning that Marion’s profound analysis of the erotic phenomenon does not include a

Love’s Intentionality


discussion of the forgiveness, as this would seemingly not belong to the pure phenomenon of love. As I have suggested, forgiveness arises out of an awareness of sin or evil, and this is a fundamentally different intentional stance than advancing toward another in love. Although Kierkegaard does not address the relationship between forgiveness and love in a direct and sustained way, it is nevertheless the case that his discourse helps readers to see the phenomenological distinction between the two experiences. Kierkegaard’s second Upbuilding Discourse on “love hides a multitude of sin” differs in focus, content, and tone. Although the verse “above all, have a heartfelt love for one another” is acknowledged, the focus of Kierkegaard’s discourse is centered here on the verse “the end of all things is near.” 88 It is within this eschatological framework that one is admonished to put on “the armor of love”—a metaphor that uneasily sees one preparing for battle, as if ready to wage war—and to be perfect in love, as “it is the only thing that will not be abolished.” 89 After the introductory section, the focus of the discourse is made clear; unlike the other two texts where understanding how love hides a multitude of sins is the focus, in this discourse the focus is on finding comfort in these words. But why are we—who are lovers—looking for comfort, for assurance, for certainty? This perspective is puzzling here, as it subtly shifts from how the lover will view the beloved and love forth love, to instead how the lover—can we still speak of the lover here without the other?—will view him- or herself. Immediately after stating the theme of the discourse Kierkegaard makes this claim: “love does indeed discover precisely in a person himself a multitude of sins.” 90 How are we to interpret this? Is there any way that it cannot be taken as contradicting the earlier central point that love does not discover sin? Is there any way to avoid the inference that Kierkegaard the writer (to say nothing of the person) appears heavily burdened by the consciousness of sin? Or is self-love fundamentally different from other-love, since it discovers imperfections and weaknesses in the self—“love takes everything, it takes a person’s perfection,” Kierkegaard writes, “but it also takes his imperfection, his sin, his distress”? 91 Further, to claim here that “to need much forgiveness becomes an expression of love’s perfection” also confounds the relationship between love and forgiveness described above where it was explained how forgiveness is occasioned by sin and not love. Thus, where there is love there is no call for forgiveness, because there is indeed love which hides a multitude of sins. Obviously, this understanding makes problematic any notion of divine forgiveness, since a perfect God of love would never fail to love forth love and not discover sin, and thus this phenomenological analysis supports Anne Minas’s claim that forgiveness is not “an action that could be performed by a perfect being.” 92


Chapter 4

Additional support for the phenomenological distinction between the experience of love and the recognition of sin can also be found in Johannes de Silentio’s Fear and Trembling, provided that we accept the thesis that all faith requires love. 93 Thus we can also understand the experience of love hiding a multitude of sins as an experience of joy, and this experience parallels the knight of faith’s joy, which involves “the absence of blame and accountability.” 94 In his analysis of de Silentio’s retelling of the story of Abraham in the “Exordium” or “Attunement” in Fear and Trembling, John Lippitt clearly shows that in “all of the first three ‘sub-Abrahams’ of the ‘Attunement,’ blame is present as a central factor,” 95 and with blame, we should note, there is the awareness of sin, guilt, and the lack of joy. Yet in the fourth retelling of the story, “blame has dropped out of the story, to be replaced by joy.” 96 In much the same way, I am arguing, sin drops out of the intentional experience of the lover, which must also be recognized as an experience of joy. TOWARD A VISION OF THE WOMAN WHO WASN’T A SINNER In the preceding pages I have attempted to show that we may justifiably read Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist of love based on the texts themselves and by linking Kierkegaard’s thinking to other phenomenologists of love such as Scheler, von Hildebrand, and Marion. This should not be taken as implying that a consideration of Husserl, Heidegger, and even Hegel has no place in the discussion, as I have made use of Husserl’s notion of the epoché or bracketing in order to see beyond the natural attitude. Additionally, this positive outlook on the relationship between Kierkegaard and phenomenology does not mean that all limitations and problems can be overcome. Indeed, as already noted, I think that Pattison is right in arguing for the limits of phenomenology when it comes to examining the God-relationship. 97 What should be clear, however, is that a phenomenological account of love can be successfully provided, and this account has the benefit of avoiding an ontotheological metaphysics through its focus on concrete relations to others. As indicated above, at the end of each Upbuilding Discourse on love hiding a multitude of sins Kierkegaard turns to the story of the relationship between Jesus and a “sinful woman.” Near the end of the second Upbuilding Discourse Kierkegaard writes: “and when she had found rest at Jesus’ feet, she forgot herself in her work of love.” 98 First, it is significant to understand that when making the advance of the lover, when performing a work of love, that one not only hides sin, but one also forgets oneself, a point which suggests the phenomenological impossibility of self-love. 99 Second, although from within the natural attitude this woman “was a sinner,” from within the

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“loving reduction” our author follows the lover Jesus and discovers the love in this woman in a Pharisee’s home—he “discover(s) what the world concealed—the love in her.” 100 Significantly, at the end of the first Upbuilding Discourse readers are also directed to “the sinful woman” brought “face to face with the Savior; but Jesus stooped down and wrote with his finger on the ground.” 101 In Jesus’s face-to-face encounter with this woman—a crossed phenomenon, 102 if you will—Kierkegaard explains how Jesus wrote “with his finger on the ground in order to erase and forget.” 103 Writing in order to erase—is this not an expression of a reverse irony? Not one in which what becomes manifested is not what was said or done, but rather one where what has been said and done becomes unmanifested—an erased phenomenon, 104 if you will? Given Kierkegaard’s analysis of the phenomenology of love hiding (bracketing) a multitude of sins, can we not now conclude affirmatively that we can read within Kierkegaard’s texts a first phenomenology of love that not only prefigures contemporary discussions, but also holds possibilities for taking these discussions further? NOTES 1. “The Seducer’s Diary,” in Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 1, 407. 2. “In Vino Veritas,” in Kierkegaard, Stages on Life’s Way, 32. 3. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 61. 4. Welz provides an excellent overview of the relationship between Kierkegaard and phenomenology. She raises important points about Kierkegaard and Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and the questions involved in considering Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist. While the present work expresses some overlapping concerns, it differs from Welz’s study in focusing more particularly on the possibility of reading Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist of love. Thus, for example, while Welz briefly considers Kierkegaard’s relation to French phenomenology including Marion, she does not include a discussion of The Erotic Phenomenon, which can be seen as centrally important here. See Welz, “Kierkegaard and Phenomenology,” 440-463. 5. Hanson, Kierkegaard as Phenomenologist, xx. 6. Mark Dooley, “Kierkegaard: Reenchanting the Lebenswelt,” in Kierkegaard as Phenomenologist, 170. 7. Dooley, “Kierkegaard: Reenchanting the Lebenswelt,” 178. 8. Dooley, “Kierkegaard: Reenchanting the Lebenswelt,” 173. 9. Dooley, “Kierkegaard: Reenchanting the Lebenswelt,” 173. 10. Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, translated by David Carr (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1970), 129; quoted in Dooley, “Kierkegaard: Reenchanting the Lebenswelt,” 171. 11. Dooley, “Kierkegaard: Reenchanting the Lebenswelt,” 185. 12. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 3. 13. Dooley, “Kierkegaard: Reenchanting the Lebenswelt,” 172. This does not mean, however, that the lover is not fully engaged with the actual world. 14. Edmund Husserl, Logical Investigations, vol. 2, edited by Dermot Moran (New York: Routledge, 2001), 177-180. 15. Cf. Paul Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, edited and translated by John B. Thompson (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 101-128.


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16. Hanson, Kierkegaard as Phenomenologist, ix; cf. Dooley, “Kierkegaard: Reenchanting the Lebenswelt,” 170. 17. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 179. 18. Heidegger, Being and Time, 178. 19. As suggested throughout this work, Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love also subscribes to this view, as does Marion, who emphases love’s primacy from the start of The Erotic Phenomenon (see p. 4f.). The passages Heidegger quotes in his note in Being and Time, 492, are these: And thence it comes about that in the case where we are speaking of human things, it is said to be necessary to know them before we love them, and this has become a proverb; but the saints, on the contrary, when they speak of divine things, say that we must love them before we know them, and that we enter into truth only by charity; they have made of this one of their most useful maxims. (Pascal, Pensées) One does not enter into truth except through charity. (Augustine, Opera, Contra Faustum, lib. 32, cap. 18) 20. Heidegger, Being and Time, 178. 21. Heidegger, Being and Time, 492. 22. Heidegger, Being and Time, 494. 23. Heidegger, Being and Time, 62. 24. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 5-16. 25. Scheler, Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values, 137. 26. M. S. Frings, The Mind of Max Scheler: The First Comprehensive Guide Based on the Complete Works (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1997), 59. 27. Although Kierkegaard’s focus on works of love is clear evidence of this, it is still the case that Kierkegaard understands the emotional aspect of love, as he refers to love as an emotion: So it is also with love. You have no right to harden yourself against this emotion [Følelse], for you ought to love; but neither do you have the right to love despairingly, for you ought to love; just as little do you have the right to misuse this emotion [Følelse] in you, for you ought to love. (Works of Love [1962], 57) Note that in the Hongs’ 1995 translation, Følelse is translated as “feeling” rather than “emotion.” Nevertheless, it is not off base to consider love as an active emotion, which is to say an action marked by a certain emotional tonality. 28. Max Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy, translated by P. Heath (London, UK, 1954), 152. 29. Helmut Maaßen, “Max Scheler on Love and Hate: A Phenomenological Approach,” in Subjectivity, Process, and Rationality, edited by Michel Weber and Pierfrancesco Basile (Heusenstamm, Germany: Ontos Verlag, 2007), 335; Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy, xl-xli. 30. Max Scheler, Ressentiment, translated by W. Holdheim (New York, NY: Schocken Books, 1972), 83. 31. Scheler, Ressentiment, 84. 32. Scheler, Ressentiment, 84. 33. Scheler, Ressentiment, 84. 34. A focused analysis of this problematic distinction is given in the next chapter. 35. Scheler, Ressentiment, 85. 36. Scheler, Ressentiment, 86. 37. Scheler, Ressentiment, 86. 38. Scheler, Ressentiment, 87. 39. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 173. 40. Max Scheler, “Ordo Amoris,” in Selected Philosophical Essays, translated by David Lachterman (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973), 98. 41. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 12.

Love’s Intentionality


42. Scheler, “Ordo Amoris,” 103. 43. Scheler, “Ordo Amoris,” 103. 44. Scheler, “Ordo Amoris,” 103. 45. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 12. 46. Scheler, “Ordo Amoris,” 109. 47. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 202. 48. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 212. 49. Scheler, “Ordo Amoris,” 109. 50. Scheler, “Ordo Amoris,” 109. 51. Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Nature of Love, translated by John F. Crosby (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine Press, 2009), 15-40. 52. von Hildebrand, The Nature of Love, 15. 53. See chapter 6 below. 54. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 159. Note that this passage poses a significant problem for those who would endeavor to make an absolute distinction between “preferential love” and “neighborly love” and suggest that the latter uproots and destroys the former. Kierkegaard refers to “the once given or chosen object,” and when the object is chosen we must recognize that one’s preference will be involved, because otherwise there would be nothing upon which one could base the choice. Thus, this provides an opening for a more unified conception of love in Kierkegaard’s writings, which will be discussed in more detail in the following chapter. 55. von Hildebrand, The Nature of Love, 17. 56. von Hildebrand, The Nature of Love, 39. 57. von Hildebrand, The Nature of Love, 40. 58. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 21. The Hongs provide a detailed note to this passage that refers to several of Hegel’s key works. 59. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 88. 60. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 88. 61. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 89. 62. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1962), 95. 63. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 83-84. 64. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 83. The mental strength Kierkegaard refers to in enacting the love of the neighbor brings his philosophy of love close to Spinoza’s, and there are additional parallels that may be draw between this section of Kierkegaard’s Works of Love (i.e., IIC) and Spinoza’s Ethics. For example, Kierkegaard writes that “he who loves his neighbor is tranquil. He is made tranquil by being content with the earthly distinction allotted to him, whether it be important or unimportant” (Works of Love [1962], 93). Spinoza similarly writes: This doctrine, therefore, besides the fact that it makes the mind entirely calm, teaches us in what our supreme happiness, or blessedness, consists: namely, solely in the knowledge of God, from which we are led to do only those things which love and piety advise. . . . Secondly, our doctrine benefits us in so far as it teaches us how we must conduct ourselves with regard to matters of fortune . . . . It teaches us to expect and to bear with a calm mind both faces of fortune, since all things follow from the eternal decree of God. (E2p49s) Additionally, Kierkegaard writes how every person “shall and ought to arrange his life in such a way that he could . . . exist equally for every human being” (Works of Love, 86). While Spinoza emphasizes a similar point as a way to achieve true freedom: By this power of correctly arranging and interconnecting the affections of the body we can bring it about that we are not easily affected by bad emotions. . . . The best we can do . . . is to conceive a right way of living, i.e. fixed rules of life, that are certain . . . . For example, among the fixed rules of life we have stated that hatred is to be conquered by love, i.e. by nobility, but is not to be repaid with reciprocal hatred. (E5p10s)


Chapter 4

For a further discussion see my “The Ethics of Love in Spinoza and Kierkegaard and the Teleological Suspension of the Theological,” Philosophy Today 51.4 (Winter 2007): 438-446. 65. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 84. Although not pointed out previously by any translator, this passage seems to be written in contrast to Plato’s Phaedrus, which sees love as the soul’s growth of wings in order to fly above the human rat race. For Plato, it is only when our wings falter that we remain along the earth: The remaining souls are all eagerly straining to keep up, but are unable to rise; they are carried around below the surface, trampling one another as each tries to get ahead of the others. The result is terribly noisy, very sweaty, and disorderly. Many souls are crippled by the incompetence of the drivers, and many wings break much of their plumage. (Phaedrus 248a-b; Plato on Love, 113) It is quite a contrast that for Kierkegaard a greater stretch of one’s wings is required for remaining within the world and loving one’s neighbors. 66. Pattison, Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Discourses, 71. 67. Pattison, Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Discourses, 72. 68. Arnold B. Come, “Kierkegaard’s Method: Does He Have One?” Kierkegaardiana 14 (1988): 14-28. Quoted in Pattison, Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Discourses, 73. 69. Pattison, Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Discourses, 76. 70. Pattison, Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Discourses, 85. 71. I actually do agree with Pattison’s position regarding “a fundamental difficulty confronting any attempt to develop phenomenology in the direction of theology,” and this claim can be taken as providing additional evidence for my argument in chapter 7, which shows that the love (fear) of God involves theological difficulties that can be avoided by a phenomenology of the love. 72. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 55. 73. See Pattison, Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Discourses, 9-10. 74. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 59. 75. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 217. 76. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 282-299. 77. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 60. 78. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 60. 79. See Marion, Prolegomena to Charity, 87. 80. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 285. Note also that for Spinoza “knowledge of evil is inadequate knowledge,” (E4p64) so that insofar as a person is ruled by the active emotions of love and nobility, he or she will not discover evil. 81. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 60. 82. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 80. 83. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 63. 84. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 289. 85. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 64. 86. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 61. 87. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 68. 88. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 70. 89. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 71. 90. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 72. 91. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 74. As shown below, Kierkegaard would answer this question affirmatively, which of courses undermines the possibility of finding a positive account of self-love in his work. 92. Anne Minas, “God and Forgiveness,” The Philosophical Quarterly 25 (1975): 138. 93. Cf. Krishek, Kierkegaard on Faith and Love, 189. 94. John Lippitt, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kierkegaard and Fear and Trembling (London, UK: Routledge, 2003), 50-51. 95. Lippitt, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kierkegaard and Fear and Trembling, 51. 96. Lippitt, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kierkegaard and Fear and Trembling, 51.

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97. George Pattison, “Kierkegaard and the Limits of Phenomenology,” in Kierkegaard as Phenomenologist, 191-194. 98. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 75. 99. Cf. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 44-47. The (im)possibility of self-love will be the focus of chapter 6 below. 100. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 77. 101. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 77. 102. Cf. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 103. 103. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 67. 104. Cf. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 138.

Chapter Five

Love’s Eternity

In each individual there continually glimmers that essential other, which is common to all, the eternal resemblance, the likeness. —Kierkegaard 1 The one who loves works very quietly and very solemnly, and yet the forces of eternity are in motion. —Kierkegaard 2

In a passage from his Ethics that has long puzzled many readers, Spinoza writes that “we feel and know by experience that we are eternal.” 3 But as all lovers know, this experience is central to the phenomenon of love, for from within the erotic or loving reduction one is immersed in the present moment and experiences this as timeless. One does not expect to love merely for a while, say for a night or a day, a month or a year, unless one has already exited the erotic reduction and returned to the natural attitude. Kierkegaard understands the eternal as essentially related to love, and this is expressed prominently in the writings of Judge William in Either/Or and in the analysis of “you shall love the neighbor” in Works of Love. Thus, these writings will be focal points in this chapter, as I shall work toward an understanding of love’s eternity as a central element of Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of love. As we have already seen, positing “the common watermark” points to an eternal part of a human being accessible through experience, so in this chapter it may be said that we shall be looking for the common watermark. In previous chapters we have seen that although love may be expressed differently in various lives, there are nevertheless common structures of immediacy and intentionality directed toward the other that is encountered in experience. As Judge William suggests following Hegel’s methodology, it is possible to synthesize the aesthetic and the ethical in marital love, and thus a 115


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higher unity of love is possible. The unity of love in Kierkegaard’s philosophy, more broadly understood, thus now needs to be explored, as well as those objections that may be seen to loom large on this account, such as the supposedly clear and utter distinction Kierkegaard makes between “erotic love” (Elskov) and “Christian love” (Kjerlighed). In what follows, this distinction, which anachronistically is sometimes seen as stemming from the absolute separation Anders Nygren makes between eros and agape, will be shown to be problematic in important ways. As we have already seen how the “immediate erotic” holds great significance for Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love, it cannot be the case that eros is condemned in a similar manner by Kierkegaard as by Nygren. Additionally, I shall consider in this chapter Emmanuel Levinas’s conception of love in relation to Kierkegaard’s, and ask whether a common watermark in Kierkegaard and Levinas can be found. Ultimately, this may be seen as a more fruitful discussion within the phenomenology of love. 4 TOWARD THE UNITY OF LOVE In Works of Love Kierkegaard attempts to mark a clear conceptual distinction between “erotic love” and “Christian love,” particularly when he writes that “Erotic love [Elskov] and friendship are preferential love [Forkjerlighed] and the passion of preferential love; Christian love [Kjerlighed] is self-denial’s love.” 5 Here Kierkegaard is arguing that Elskov is defined by an object, whereas Kjerlighed is defined by love, and thus he claims that Elskov and Kjerlighed are not essentially related. In what is likely the strongest expression of the divergence Kierkegaard writes: But concerning love for the neighbor there is only one question, the question about love; and there is only one answer of eternity: This is love, since this love for the neighbor is not related as a type to other types of love. Erotic love [Elskov] is defined by the object; friendship is defined by the object; only love for the neighbor is defined by love [Kjerlighed]. In other words, since the neighbor is every human being, unconditionally ever human being, all dissimilarities are indeed removed from the object, and therefore this love is recognizable precisely by this, that its object is without any of the more precise specifications of dissimilarity, which means that this love is recognizable only by love. 6

Consequently, this distinction cannot be easily dismissed. 7 Nevertheless, we can surely consider the experience of love and question whether it is a phenomenological fact that “love for the neighbor is not related as a type to other types of love.” We have already found good reason above to suggest that Elskov and Kjerlighed ought not be viewed as diametrically opposed to each

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other. Further, we have seen how the immediacy of the erotic is related to the substance of love and ultimately also includes a movement away from the self in the erotic reduction. A look at the Danish terms Forkjerlighed and Kjerlighed also suggests that the experiences denoted by these terms are more related than distinct, and one may question the validity of the translation “preferential love” as well as the meaning of the English term. After all, is not all love for another, and does not all love put forward and promote the other? It is plain enough that through this distinction Kierkegaard wishes to identify “the eternal equality in loving”: Love for the neighbor is therefore the eternal equality in loving, but the eternal equality is the opposite of preference. This needs no elaborate development. Equality is simply not to make distinctions, and eternal equality is unconditionally not to make the slightest distinction, unqualifiedly not to make the slightest distinction. Preference, on the other hand, is to make distinctions; passionate preference is unqualifiedly to make distinctions. 8

Perhaps more than any other, this passage suggests opposition between “preferential love” and “love,” but readers may be justified in asking for a more elaborate development here. Moreover, to consider equality as simply not making distinctions seems a bit too simplistic, so a more robust explanation is needed. 9 Although Kierkegaard’s Works of Love can be read politically, his view of equality appears less developed as a social and political notion, and instead it is seen from the perspective of eternity, and thus expresses the idea of the eternal value that each human being has through his or her existence or gifted life. Love, then, involves an experience and action centered on this value that is common to us all. So, while we can understand how we should not make distinctions of essential value regarding individual human beings, we may still hold that it is necessary to distinguish individual differences in order to love others as best we can. For it would be absurd to suggest that one should not consider individual differences in order to love the other in the best way possible. Fortunately, Kierkegaard, however attracted he is to the absurd when thinking theologically, recognizes this point early in Works of Love, as he writes that “if you can perceive what is best for [a human being] better than he can, you will not be excused because the harmful thing was his own desire.” 10 This implies a difference of individual perspectives, and when loving multiple human beings is at issue, one will have to make multiple distinctions regarding what is best for one and harmful for another. The challenge, of course, is to be able to weigh the differences without compromising the eternal equality of each individual. One further reason that may be found for opposing Kjerlighed to Elskov is that readers have been led to read into these two terms the sharp distinction between eros and agape proposed by Anders Nygren. As noted by Howard


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Hong and Edna Hong in their translation of Either/Or: “Elskov is immediate, romantic, dreaming love, as between a man and a woman. Kjærlighed is love in a more inclusive and also higher sense. Elskov and Kjærlighed correspond to ‘eros’ and ‘agape.’” 11 In his recent work Kierkegaard and the Staging of Desire: Rhetoric and Performance in a Theology of Eros (2014), Carl Hughes shows how “the Hongs’ translation . . . clearly implies that Elskov and Kjerlighed equate to what Nygren means by eros and agape.” 12 Hughes explains: One translation issue in particular demands to be flagged from the outset. As is well known, Kierkegaard has available to him two Danish words for love, Kjærlighed (also spelled Kjerlighed; today spelled Kærlighed) and Elskov. Howard and Edna Hong usually translate Elskov as “erotic love” (though some contexts force them to translate it simply as “love”—giving the clear impression that the latter is Christian and the former is not). Yet the dichotomy that the Hongs create here owes far more to Anders Nygren’s prodigiously influential book Agape and Eros than to anything in Kierkegaard’s own thought. 13

What, then, is Nygren’s view of the distinction, which holds that eros and the Christian conception of agape have “no common denominator”? 14 Early in Nygren’s text he attempts to clarify the distinction as follows: Agape may be compared to a stream flowing with immense force in a clearly defined channel; but Eros is a broad, shallow river with marshy banks, which in time of flood overflows miles of country . . . . It is, however, of great importance to our purpose to indicate the form of Eros with which we are here concerned. We are not concerned at all with Eros in the meaning of sensual love. The Eros which is the rival of Agape is the Platonic love, Eros in its most refined and spiritual form; it is the desire of the soul of man to attain salvation by detaching from earthly objects of desire, and by seeking after heavenly things. 15

There is much to puzzle over here, and perhaps such puzzlement can be fruitbearing. But the metaphorical descriptions given here seem of little help, 16 and the distinction between eros as sensual love and eros as Platonic love is surely in need of elaboration. For as we have seen, so-called “Platonic love” is rooted in the sensual, and thus within the context of Kierkegaard studies it is not possible entirely to separate Plato’s conception of love from Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love, which of course includes a sound appreciation of the sensual-erotic. Further, we can see rather readily that what is under discussion is not a phenomenological conception of love, but instead a theological conception focused on soteriology. Although Nygren insists that his work is not apologetic, but is “purely descriptive,” 17 it seems clear enough, as it was to A. G. Hebert, his English translator, that he is writing “to exalt Agape and decry Eros.” 18 For Nygren

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these two kinds of love are as essentially different as the divine and the human, and yet still there is “much confusion between the two ideas, a confusion in which we are still entangled.” 19 Whether Nygren ultimately succeeds in disentangling these conceptions remains questionable, however, and his ultimate position holds that a theological synthesis of eros and agape is an absolute impossibility. 20 Nevertheless, it is suggested a “necessity of life” that we work out a unified reconciliation of these two kinds of love in practice! 21 Thus we could say that a phenomenological approach to the philosophy of love focuses on a unified approach while suspending theological and soteriological concerns, and this may be seen as no small benefit. We have already seen Marion’s defense of a unified conception of love, and Marion’s argument has been deepened in his recent work In the Self’s Place: The Approach of Saint Augustine (2012). Here, in a section titled “The Univocity of Love,” Marion argues that the incitement to love, which cannot be avoided, “is put into practice in the same way and according to the same logic, however different its object and occasions appear.” 22 Then Marion turns to consider Nygren, who is said to have contested the “univocal university” of love “more so than . . . any other.” 23 Although the context of Marion’s work involves examining Augustine’s philosophy of love, Nygren’s reasoning is characterized as “untenable,” “strange,” and finally “inept.” 24 While Marion’s criticism is forceful, what may be most interesting about the supposedly essential contrast between eros and agape drawn by Nygren is that, as I read it, it is actually between “self-love” and “divine love,” rather than what we might understand more commonly as eros and agape. This is suggested earlier by Nygren (within the context of discussing Augustine’s notion of “caritas”) when he rejects any possible synthesis between eros and agape by writing: “How could a fundamental conception of self-love be made to explain unselfish Divine love?” 25 He also writes later that “it would be pure nonsense to speak of Agape as self-love.” 26 Accordingly, if we take this to be his ultimate distinction it may be much more acceptable within our phenomenological investigation that will find it difficult if not impossible to account for the possibility of self-love. 27 Nevertheless, it should now be clear that Nygren’s distinction between eros and agape should not be mapped onto Kierkegaard’s distinction between Elskov and Kjærlighed. One additional reason for this is that nowhere in Agape and Eros—neither the first nor second part—does Nygren refer to Kierkegaard or his Works of Love. Surely Nygren, Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Lund, Sweden (a short forty miles from Copenhagen, Denmark) would have been well-aware of Kierkegaard’s work— and Works of Love had been translated into Swedish in 1862 28 —so that if he


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himself did not find in Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love any support for his own view, then we would be hard put to suggest a connection long after the fact. A final major objection to the argument that Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love exhibits a unified conception of love could be seen as coming from Kierkegaard’s own hand—whether it is his right or left hand cannot be decisively concluded—insofar as he maintains in The Point of View that the duality between the aesthetic and the religious is there from the beginning of his authorship, 29 and this duality would thus also be reflected in distinct views of love. But I have shown elsewhere the problematic nature of drawing conclusions from The Point of View in light of the “higher” dialectical structure of Kierkegaard’s writings, 30 and even if an aesthetic-religious duality is still held, this would not necessarily mean that a unified view of love is not possible within Kierkegaard’s authorship. Thus we are justified in not forcing the distinction between essentially different types of love, and I have tried to refrain from making any such distinction throughout this work. Here we can also agree with Pattison, who writes: “Yet (for once!), Kierkegaard does not insist on an either/or. It is certainly not the case that we can only become practitioners of commanded love by rooting out or crushing the spontaneous human loves we all know from daily experience.” 31 Thus there is evidence for a more unified view of love in Kierkegaard’s writings, including the writings of Judge William, to which we now turn. JUDGE WILLIAM ON LOVE’S ETERNAL VALIDITY The writings attributed to Judge William in volume two of Either/Or and in The Stages on Life’s Way are commonly taken to express the ethical stage in opposition to the aesthetic stage, and a panegyric on marital love as opposed to romantic love. This is not the case, however, for although romantic love is contrasted to marital love in the letter Judge William writes to “A,” what we find the wise judge actually arguing for is the unity of love, which may perhaps be best understood as an ascent of love brought about through an absolute choice in which all the various elements of life are unified in an experience of love’s eternity validity. We have already seen that more than anywhere else, in the “Esthetic Validity of Marriage” in part 2 of Either/Or, Kierkegaard is influenced by the Hegelian conception of love. As Jon Stewart explains, “from the discussion in Either/Or, it is clear that Kierkegaard is still fascinated by the basic Hegelian structure. Judge William’s discussion follows the Hegelian triad perfectly.” 32 Irving Singer expresses a similar view, as he writes that Kierkegaard’s “ideas are also compatible with an approach to love not wholly different

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from Hegel’s. This mediating approach is present in the position Judge William defends.” 33 Thus, “the promise of a successful and even predictable attainment of love between persons remains constant” in the phenomenological philosophies of both Hegel and Kierkegaard. 34 Now, it is important to see that Judge William does not think of Kjærlighed and Elskov as opposing elements. In fact, he conceives them together as the defining substance of marriage. He writes: The first thing I have to do is to orient myself and especially you in the defining characteristics of what a marriage is. Obviously the real constituting element, the substance, is love [Kjærlighed]—or, if you want to give it more specific emphasis, erotic love [Elskov]. Once this is taken away, married life is either merely a satisfaction of sensuous appetite or it is an association, a partnership, with one or another object in mind; but love, whether it is the superstitious, romantic, chivalrous love or the deeper moral, religious love filled with a vigorous and vital conviction, has precisely the qualification of eternity in it. 35

Although there is a recognition of different expressions of love here, Judge William refers to love in the singular, and this love—however it manifests itself, whether romantic or religious—is marked by the eternal. Thus Judge William thinks of love as a unified concept with the essential qualification of eternity. How should this be more deeply understood? The answer is this: “by being lived.” 36 What this means is that in order for love to be love it must be “continually repeated,” and this is done “only by living it, by realizing it in the life of actuality.” 37 This, then, is the essential point of marriage, that it actualizes love through “time in its extension.” 38 This does not mean that the aesthetic sphere of romantic love is lacking in love, but rather that the aesthete does not fully actualize love’s eternity in time. Marion explains: At the moment of loving, the lover can only believe what he or she says and does under a certain aspect of eternity. Or, more exactly, under an instantaneous eternity, without the promise that it will last, but nevertheless an eternity of intention. The lover just as much as the beloved needs the possible conviction that he or she loves this time forever, irreversibly, once and for all. 39

This “eternity of intention,” which is arguably what Spinoza also attempts to develop, may be read as complementing Judge William’s discussion of the inner history that belongs to marital love, or better, the married lover. Furthermore, Judge William acknowledges that both romantic love and marital love are faithful, thus showing congruence with Marion’s view, and pointing to what may also be understood as an intentionality of eternity. 40 This lover


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is, of course, not defined by an official institution granting legality to the marriage (although one suspects that the good judge would be in favor of that), but rather by the erotic reduction and its intentional structure. The claim that love has eternal validity means that love continues without end in time. In other words, love endures, and is not bound by a day, a week, or a year, which is a reason for understanding that love cannot be represented poetically, but can rather only be lived. According to Judge William, the married lover “has had eternity in time, has preserved eternity in time,” and is consequently “victorious over time.” 41 Judge William continues: Like a true victor, the married man has not killed time but has rescued and preserved it in eternity. The married man who does this is truly living poetically; he solves the great riddle, to live in eternity and yet to hear the cabinet clock strike in such a way that its striking does not shorten but lengthens his eternity . . . . And although this cannot be portrayed artistically, then let your consolation be, as it is mine, that we are not to read about or listen to or look at what is the highest and the most beautiful in life, but are, if you please, to live it. 42

Because it can only be lived, “marital love has its enemy in time, its victory in time, its eternity in time,” 43 and while I think this accurately describes all experiences of love, it may indeed be the case that the relationship between married lovers most clearly exhibits the virtues of love. It is faithful, constant, humble, patient, long-suffering, tolerant, honest, content with little, alert, persevering, willing, happy. All these virtues have the characteristic that they are qualifications within the individual. The individual is not fighting against external enemies but is struggling with himself, struggling to bring his love out of himself. And these virtues have the qualification of time, for their veracity consists not in this, that they are once and for all, but that they are continually. 44

Understanding love’s eternity means that we understand that love involves a duty to be actualized and continually enacted. Otherwise, these virtues of love are not possible. Both the pseudonymous Either/Or and the veronymous Works of Love are in agreement in this regard, as the latter text develops further the understanding of love as a duty. Kierkegaard’s careful analysis of the commandment “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” recognizes that the “shall” marks both eternity and duty, and with duty comes responsibility, the ethical call to respond to the other and act for his or her best. On this point Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of love appears to converge with the ethical phenomenology of Levinas, and this provides further support for reading Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love as first phenomenology. Therefore, let us now consider more carefully the relationship between the thinking of Kierkegaard and Levinas on the question of love. 45

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LOVING OTHERS IN KIERKEGAARD AND LEVINAS Despite all their important parallels, let us begin by considering that there might be a profound difference between Kierkegaard and Levinas that is much more significant than the apparent Levinas-Kierkegaard divide over “the abandon[ment] of the ethical stage” suggested by Johannes de Silentio’s discussion of “the teleological suspension of the ethical” and Johannes Climacus’s thesis that “truth is subjectivity.” For Levinas, Kierkegaardian philosophy should “be taken seriously as a justification for violence and terror.” 46 Such a view, however, and the controversy it has provoked, would in all likelihood have been mitigated or avoided if Levinas had taken into account Kierkegaard’s major ethical work, Works of Love. Unfortunately, he did not. Consequently, insofar as a more comprehensive account of Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love has been established, one in which Works of Love is taken as central, there is little serious justification to consider this difference between our thinkers. A more significant divergence that I wish to focus on here is how each thinker would respond to the question: “Is it possible to love the other that is absolutely other, or, does loving another require one necessarily to transform the dissimilar other into one who is the same?” Here our philosophers appear to be at odds. For Levinas, it is precisely the absolute irreducible alterity of the other that can be taken as founding the ethics of responsibility. Whereas for Kierkegaard, to put it metaphorically as he does in Works of Love, the ethics of love requires one to see “the common watermark” in all of us. In other words, for Kierkegaard loving the neighbor—an equal who is the same—involves seeing beyond the false sense of both self and other to the true sense, where the false sense is characterized by dissimilarity and the true sense by similarity. Such similarity seems to affirm a symmetrical relationship between the self and other, at least as an ethical goal or ideal. 47 In contrast, Levinas strongly maintains that an asymmetrical relation between self and other is fundamental for ethics. 48 Thus, in dealing with the central question of loving the other, the “grave views” 49 of “love” found in Levinas and Kierkegaard (with the corresponding notions of self and neighbor) need to be addressed and the problem of asymmetry versus symmetry confronted. Following this, we may be in a better position to determine whether it is the “ontology of difference” or the “non-ontology of sameness” 50 that bears more fruit.


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THE COMMON WATERMARK OF LOVE Kierkegaard’s Works of Love is arguably his most important ethical writing, for it is here that he develops an ethics of love based on the practice of the central Christian command given in Matthew 22:39. Kierkegaard carefully analyzes this verse, focusing on what is signified by the terms “you,” “shall,” and “the neighbor.” Notwithstanding the important, but problematic distinctions he draws between “preferential love” (Elskov) and what might be called “pure love” 51 (Kjerlighed), a methodical analysis of the key term “love” is lacking, because such an analysis is deemed impossible from the start. As Kierkegaard explains in the “Preface,” love is “something that in its total richness is essentially inexhaustible . . . essentially indescribable just because essentially it is totally present everywhere and essentially cannot be described.” 52 When we begin to consider “the neighbor,” or what can also be called the other, we learn that it means the “nearest.” This is not to be understood in the sense of “preferential love,” but in the sense of “pure love” in which case I understand the other—and consequently myself—for example, not as he, man, teacher, husband, father, or teacher, but instead as “one who is equal” or similar to all others. Kierkegaard insightfully explains how the concept of “the neighbor” is “a redoubling of your own self.” 53 Clarifying this is problematic, however, because “self” is an ambiguous term, and just as there are dual notions of love present in the text, there are also dual notions of the self. In loving the neighbor as oneself, the self that is redoubled is not the self of “preferential love,” for as Kierkegaard writes, “self-love cannot endure ‘redoubling.’” 54 Within this context we may consider the self of Elskov the narcissistic “ego” 55 and the self of Kjerlighed the “pure self.” What Kierkegaard is suggesting in the “redoubling of the self” is that when one ego meets another ego, say in a visual face-to-face encounter, one recognizes the other as different and dissimilar. It is in this sense that the claim “every other (one) is every (bit) other” 56 makes sense, but this is not the case in “pure love.” In the work of loving another one looks away from the other ego as different and presupposes the other as a “self” that is the same. Kierkegaard clearly and eloquently illustrates this in a key passage, cited above, which explains how the neighbor is “the common watermark” that can only be seen “by means of eternity’s light when it shines through the dissimilarity.” 57 While we must concede that empirically no visible watermark comes into view, the point is that ethically one should presuppose that there is a common watermark, and that phenomenologically in the experience of loving the common watermark, which represents the equality of value, becomes manifest. Whether loving the neighbor is comparable to the “metaphysical event of transcendence” as Levinas describes would seem to be beside the point for Kierkegaard, whose focus is not in knowing the metaphysical nature of ab-

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stract love as a process of totalization, but rather in actualizing love through the immanent ethical call to perform finite works of love. Thus in considering the example of the Samaritan, Kierkegaard emphasizes that “Christ does not speak about knowing the neighbor but about becoming a neighbor oneself, about showing oneself to be a neighbor just as the Samaritan showed it by his mercy.” 58 Through the act of love, one identifies one’s own “self” as a same 59 “self,” and thus we can understand this process of “the redoubling of the self” as the uncovering of the pure, eternal self in the neighbor and myself. In this sense, it is right to understand Kierkegaard’s deliberation on “loving your neighbor as yourself” as maintaining “an important affirmation of symmetry in relation.” 60 In the chapter titled “Love Builds Up,” which opens the “second series” of deliberations in Works of Love, Kierkegaard explains that “all human speech . . . about the spiritual is essentially metaphorical,” 61 so we now need to consider directly what this metaphor of the common watermark implies. The answer seems rather obvious. It commits us, that is if we accept the appropriateness of the metaphor, to viewing others as sharing in a common fundamental identity, for it is only when we view others as the same—which is to say equal in freedom and worthy of what is best—that we can be said to love them, and we do this by presupposing that love is present in others as well as in ourselves. 62 What Kierkegaard is expressing here is not exceedingly difficult to understand. After all, is it not the view of others as fundamentally different from us that founds all acts of violence, such as those waged on battlefields and in slaughterhouses? No, this is not hard to understand, and to claim that it is obstructs the true difficulty—the true difficulty lies in the application, in the continual striving to realize the common watermark in all others, which we do by presupposing that love is present and acting in light of this presupposition. 63 Judge William’s writings are often read as leading one down the path toward selfhood, but here we must be careful about the sense of self that is implied. For, readers will find that the perspective Judge William develops also leads to the common watermark, and not to a singular, isolated, individual self as may be commonly thought. In part 2 of Either/Or, following his reflections on the “Esthetic Validity of Marriage,” Judge William writes about “The Balance between the Esthetic and the Ethical in the Development of the Personality,” and here the focus is on an act of will, the absolute choice of the absolute, which is “myself in my eternal validity.” 64 Both Judge William and Marion agree that “the lover’s uncertainty can be resolved only by a decisive act of will,” 65 but what becomes manifest through the will to love? Judge William writes: “But what is this self of mine? If I were to speak of a first moment, a first expression for it, then my answer is this: It is the


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most abstract of all, and yet in itself it is also the most concrete of all—it is freedom.” 66 Herein lies the wisdom of Judge William, who would advise his beloved son thus: I leave to thee no fortune, no title and dignities, but I know where there lies buried a treasure which suffices to make thee richer than the whole world, and this treasure belongs to thee, and thou shalt not even express thanks to me for it lest thou take hurt to thine own soul by owing everything to another. This treasure is deposited in thine own inner self: there is an either/or which makes a man greater than the angels. 67

The treasure Judge William identifies is the common watermark we all share. It is our eternal likeness, our will to love. LOOKING FOR LOVE IN LEVINAS It is important to state from the start that Levinas is uneasy about love. In an interview entitled “Philosophy, Justice, and Love,” Levinas says, “I don’t very much like the word love, which is worn-out and debased” 68 and again “I don’t use it much, the word love, it is a worn-out and ambiguous word.” 69 Surely, we must agree with the ambiguity of love, which was perhaps felt less by Kierkegaard because of the Danish words Elskov and Kjerlighed, which according to the Hongs “lend themselves to the clarifying of contrast and definition in a way not available with the single ambiguous omnibus word in English.” 70 In writing on “The Ambiguity of Love” what Levinas appears to be considering most directly are the objects of love, whether it is a person or book that enjoys the privilege of beloved status, and he thus develops a context akin to Kierkegaard’s discussion of Elskov or “preferential love.” Levinas also refers to Aristophanes’s myth in Plato’s Symposium, 71 so we see that this is clearly not the context of Kierkegaard’s deliberations on Kjerlighed. Perhaps it is because of the focus on this understanding of love that Levinas prefers not to speak directly about loving others as Kierkegaard does, but instead develops an ethics of responsibility focused on the other as “above all the one I am responsible for.” 72 Levinas’s other, signified by the phenomenon of the face, is one who is absolutely other, and thus unalterably dissimilar. This constitutes the essentially asymmetrical relation between selves, which Levinas holds is “the very basis of ethics.” 73 While intuitively it seems problematic to try to love one whom one sees as totally different, Levinas’s point in arguing for a fundamentally non-symmetrical relation would appear to be his concerns about reciprocity. If love requires reciprocity then, as we have already seen, it can easily become a ruse of seduction or narcissistic stratagem of the lover. In Ethics and Infinity he writes: “I am

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responsible for the Other without waiting for reciprocity, were I to die for it. Reciprocity is his affair.” 74 But does this view preclude seeing the other as the same, an equal worthy of love, one for whom one desires the best? Does a vision of symmetry necessarily entail a reciprocity requirement? Kierkegaard did not think so, for he, like Levinas, thought that “the greatest abomination to love” was to turn it into a “bookkeeping arrangement” seen as erasing love’s infinite debt. 75 Consequently, it would be mistaken to see his affirmation of a symmetrical relation as one that demands reciprocity. The love that expects love back belongs to the ego-self, not the “pure self” that enacts neighborly love. A common ground can thus be seen in the denial of reciprocity, but the following passage from Levinas signals a sharper divergence: “the metaphysical event of transcendence—the welcoming of the other, hospitality—is not accomplished as love.” 76 A view more contrary to Kierkegaard’s Works of Love could hardly be imagined. There are several reasons for this. First, although we can interpret this passage as referring to a sense of preferential, rather than pure love, as I have been suggesting it is not at all clear that this kind of love cannot accomplish hospitality. 77 Second, as we have already seen, for Kierkegaard welcoming the other would mean welcoming the same, an essential and eternal likeness, a like for a like. Third, it is not clear that for Kierkegaard loving the other is best thought of as “the metaphysical event of transcendence.” 78 Although Kierkegaard’s metaphor of a common watermark does suggest something transcendent to empirical consciousness, the fruitfulness of his ethical view lies in the conversion of the transcendent into an immanent event. Thus by actual works—works which bear actual fruit— one presupposes that a common watermark exists and that love is present in others and oneself. 79 IS THERE A COMMON WATERMARK IN KIERKEGAARD AND LEVINAS? If “absolute difference is established only by language,” 80 then perhaps an absolute sameness can only be established by an intuition of the heart. Consider again this phenomenological observation by Kierkegaard: “It is true that love proceeds from the heart, but let us not be hasty about this and forget the eternal truth that love forms the heart.” 81 So, let us not be hasty in forming a response. Historically, Levinas emphasized his difference from Kierkegaard, but it must also be admitted that Levinas’s criticism was unfair insofar as it was not soundly based on a more comprehensive understanding of Kierkegaard’s writings. To represent Kierkegaard as an egoist concerned


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with his own salvation 82 and his thinking as a “violent” philosophy, as previously noted, sadly fails to account for both the ethics of love found in Works of Love and Kierkegaard’s overall phenomenology of love. It should also be noted that Jacques Derrida, a dear friend to Levinas and ardent supporter of Kierkegaard, 83 has insightfully questioned Levinas’s reading of Kierkegaard in his essay “Violence and Metaphysics: An Essay on the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas.” Here he wagers that Kierkegaard would not have distinguished the I from the other, and that the I of subjectivity is not egoistic subjective experience, but rather essential, non-empirical subjective experience in general. He writes: The philosopher Kierkegaard does not only plead for Søren Kierkegaard, but for subjective existence in general (a noncontradictory expression); this is why his discourse is philosophical, and not in the realm of empirical egoism. The name of a philosophical subject, when he says I, is always, in a certain way, a pseudonym. This is a truth that Kierkegaard adopted systematically, even while protesting against the “possibilization” of individual existence which resists the concept. And is not this essence of subjective existence presupposed by the respect for the other, which can be what it is—the other—only as subjective existence? 84

A perspective that follows Derrida in considering the separation of our thinkers can be found in Mark Dooley’s The Politics of Exodus: Kierkegaard’s Ethics of Responsibility. Here he explains “why it is a mistake to think of the Kierkegaardian project in Levinasian terms”: Kierkegaard anticipates Derrida’s critique of Levinas by following a line of reflection which argues that the “wholly other” is not “absolutely other” in Levinas’s sense, but is the otherness that becomes apparent in and through the dialectic of ego and alter ego. The individual, that is, comes to know that the other is irreducibly incommensurable with the order of the same, or comes to the realization that there is something secret or nonmanifest about the other, not because the other is “infinitely other,” but because the alter ego’s experience of the world is different from the ego’s for the simple reason that they say “I” from two distinct perspectives. When Derrida speaks of the need for narcissisms he is merely reiterating this point. Unless I can identify myself to a certain degree in the other, how can I come to love that other? 85

How indeed! Could there not then be an important connection—a common source—between Elskov and Kjerlighed? Is it not possible for preferential love to lead to pure love? Isn’t this the usual process: because I presuppose that someone—such as a family member, friend, or peer—and I share a common bond, I can begin to love her in the right way, which is to say purely (i.e., “unselfishly, freely, and faithfully,” 86) which is also to say not from my own subjective point of view but from a view based on what is best for her—

Love’s Eternity


a view that preserves her uniqueness? Although Kierkegaard does claim that Elskov and Kjerlighed must be clearly distinguished, the concrete examples of love’s edification involve relations based on familial and romantic love (e.g., “a housewife’s loving solicitude,” “a large family packed into a small apartment,” “a baby sleeping on its mother’s breast,” 87 and a great artist smashing his masterpiece out of love for another person. 88) Is this because concrete examples of pure love are “as difficult as they are rare”? Or perhaps such works are more common than we think as suggested by Kierkegaard’s examples of love’s edification. Would it not be the case that presupposing that loving works are more common than rare and that they come from a common source is the more edifying perspective to take? While I find the point of view that one should not attempt “to think of the Kierkegaardian project in Levinasian terms” compelling, I am less hesitant to accept the position that ultimately our two thinkers are profoundly divergent. After all, Kierkegaard’s first phenomenology of love and Levinas’s ethics of responsibility appear “in the final analysis . . . to have the same guiding impulse” 89 —an impulse both ethical and religious. 90 They are marked by a common goal, however it gets expressed, of affirming the neighbor. It may also be significant to consider the metaphors of a common watermark and the face as similar foundations for an ethics of love and responsibility. In an ethical encounter for Levinas the face “is present in its refusal to be contained. In this sense it cannot be comprehended, that is encompassed. It is neither seen nor touched.” 91 Can we not say the same thing about the common watermark? Perhaps Levinas either warmed up to the term “love” or succumbed to its unavoidability, for in the preface to the German edition of Totality and Infinity written on January 18, 1987, he characterizes his thinking as “philosophy of love as love” and refers to the “undeniable responsibility” toward the other as “love.” 92 But already in “Beyond the Face” in Totality and Infinity one finds, I think, an expression of love that comes surprisingly close to Kierkegaard’s view of love as self-renunciation (i.e., ego-renunciation). Levinas calls love “the subjectivity [that] accepts to be silent, [and] renounce[s] itself by itself, renounce[s] itself without violence.” 93 Levinas’s critique of Climacus’s thesis that “truth is subjectivity” would be justified if by this thesis a sacrifice of the other and one’s responsibility to the other was implied. But such an implication is hardly the case. Johannes Climacus’s central thesis that “truth is subjectivity” 94 is only a stepping stone to Kierkegaard’s ethics of love, for it emphasizes the importance of the “how” over the “what,” and for an understanding of “how,” as we have seen, we can do no better than to turn to Works of Love. For Kierkegaard, then, the “how” ultimately refers to love. This is demonstrated at the start of Works of Love, in the very first chapter, “Love’s Hidden Life and Its Recognizability by Its Fruits,” where Kierkegaard writes: “There is no work, not one single one, not


Chapter 5

even the best, about which we unconditionally dare to say: The one who does this unconditionally demonstrates love by it. It depends on how the work is done.” 95 He continues: “How, then, the word is said and above all how it is meant, how, then, the work is done—this is decisive in determining and in recognizing love by its fruits.” 96 NOTES 1. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 88. 2. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 218. 3. Spinoza, E5p23s. 4. In his recent work Carl Hughes charts a related path by “contrast[ing] Kierkegaardian eros with the desire condemned by Nygren—arguing that Kierkegaardian eros is better compared to Emmanuel Levinas’s phenomenology of infinite desire.” See Carl S. Hughes, Kierkegaard and the Staging of Desire: Rhetoric and Performance in a Theology of Eros (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2014), 16. 5. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 52. 6. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 66. 7. Although speculative and thus perhaps not terribly fruitful, one might question Kierkegaard’s motives in making such a sharp distinction. The theological context of Works of Love leads readers to see that Kierkegaard is trying to illustrate the exclusively unique view of Christian love and wants to separate it from all other views; thus, the focus on exclusivity can be found problematic. 8. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 58. 9. The concept of “equality” is still much disputed today, and as Dworkin writes, “People who praise [equality] or disparage it disagree about what they are praising or disparaging.” See Ronald Dworkin, Sovereign Virtue: The Theory and Practice of Equality (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 2. 10. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 20. 11. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, 473. 12. Hughes, Kierkegaard and the Staging of Desire, 25. 13. Hughes, Kierkegaard and the Staging of Desire, 25. 14. Hughes, Kierkegaard and the Staging of Desire, 26. 15. Anders Nygren, Agape and Eros: A Study of the Christian Idea of Love, part 1, translated by A. G. Hebert (London, UK: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1932), 33. 16. In fairness to Nygren one can say that his entire work is written to describe the distinction, and this is nicely summarized toward the end of his work in the section “The Essential Contrast” (Agape and Eros, 164-166). 17. Nygren, Agape and Eros, 166. In the “Translator’s Preface” A. G. Hebert calls Nygren’s work “purely scientific” (vi), and in his text Nygren explains that he is “not constructing an apologetic,” but rather is “concerned to assess the value of the two fundamental religious ideas called Eros and Agape . . . to understand their actual nature” (26). 18. Hebert, “Translator’s Preface,” in Nygren, Agape and Eros, vi. 19. Hebert, “Translator’s Preface,” in Nygren, Agape and Eros, x. 20. See Nygren, Agape and Eros, 39. 21. See Nygren, Agape and Eros, xv, 39, 182. 22. Jean-Luc Marion, In the Self’s Place: The Approach of Saint Augustine, translated by Jeffrey L. Kosky (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), 272. 23. Marion, In the Self’s Place, 272. 24. Marion, In the Self’s Place, 273. 25. Nygren, Agape and Eros, 39. 26. Nygren, Agape and Eros, 157. 27. See chapter 6 below.

Love’s Eternity


28. Søren Kierkegaard, Kärlekens Gerningar, translated by Gustaf Thomée (Stockholm, Sweden: Hörbergska Boktryckeriet, 1862). 29. Kierkegaard, The Point of View, Kierkegaard’s Writings XXII, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 30. 30. See Strawser, Both/And: Reading Kierkegaard from Irony to Edification, 228-239. 31. Pattison, “Foreword” to Works of Love, xii. 32. Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relations to Hegel Reconsidered, 225. Judge William’s “Reflections on Marriage” in Stages on Life’s Way expresses this same dialectic of love; see Kierkegaard, Stages on Life’s Way, 87-184. 33. Singer, The Nature of Love, vol. 3, 41. 34. Singer, The Nature of Love, vol. 3, 41. 35. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, 32. 36. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, 137. 37. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, 137. 38. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, 137. 39. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 109. 40. It should be noted, however, that this is not meant to suggest that the terms “intention” and “intentionality” are synonymous, because they are not. But rather that what Marion is describing, what Spinoza and Kierkegaard envisioned, what Judge William illustrates, and what the lover experiences is that from within the erotic reduction consciousness is structured by eternity. 41. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, 138. 42. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, 138-139. 43. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, 138-139. 44. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, 139. 45. Earlier versions of the following sections in this chapter have appeared in Michael Strawser, “Looking for a Common Watermark: Loving Others in Kierkegaard and Levinas,” in Despite Oneself: Subjectivity and Its Secret in Kierkegaard and Levinas, edited by Claudia Welz and Karl Verstrynge (London, UK: Turnshare, 2008), 127-140. 46. Levinas, “Existence and Ethics,” in Kierkegaard: A Critical Reader, 31. 47. Nevertheless, Kierkegaard is sometimes interpreted—as well as criticized—for advocating an asymmetrical relationship between self and other. This view is primarily occasioned by “The Work of Love in Recollecting One Who Is Dead” in Works of Love, 345-358. An informed discussion of “Love’s Asymmetry” can be read in M. Jamie Ferreira’s Love’s Grateful Striving: A Commentary on Kierkegaard’s Works of Love (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001), 209-227. 48. A central theme in Totality and Infinity is that “the intersubjective relation is a nonsymmetrical relation.” Emmanuel Levinas, Ethics and Infinity: Conversations with Philippe Nemo, translated by Richard A. Cohen (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1985), 98. 49. Such is the way Levinas refers to his view. See Emmanuel Levinas, Entre Nous: Thinking of the Other, translated by Michael B. Smith and Barbara Harshav (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1998), 113. 50. This is not meant to imply an egoistic ontology or a violent metaphysics in which the other is reduced to the ego, the same. Instead, what I hope will become clearer in the following pages is that for Kierkegaard it is arguable that the other and the “true self,” not the ego, is the order of the same. 51. These distinctions have been discussed above, but perhaps the expression “pure love” is an improvement over “Christian love” or “self-denial’s love.” Although we may want to think that love is love and any qualification detracts from the unity of love, this designation may be suggestive for at least three reasons. First, it fits with Kierkegaard’s view that “[Christianity] wants only to make human beings pure” (Works of Love, 70). Second, it parallels the distinction Derrida makes when searching for the proper meaning of forgiveness, as he distinguishes between ordinary forgiveness and pure forgiveness. (See Jacques Derrida, On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, translated by Mark Dooley and Michael Hughes [London and New York:


Chapter 5

Routledge, 2001]). Although this second point may suggest “the impossible,” it nevertheless surrounds this discourse with an air of irony, which is always appropriate for Kierkegaard. Perhaps “pure love” could be defined as “loving the unlovable.” 52. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 21. Additionally, as Robert Solomon has put it, “love can only be understood from the inside.” Robert Solomon, Love: Emotion, Myth and Metaphor (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1981). 53. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 21. 54. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 21. 55. Jean-Paul Sartre’s view of The Transcendence of the Ego would be useful here in explaining how the ego should be understood as a constructed, transcendent object, a product of an ego-less self. 56. “Tout Autre Est Tout Autre,” which is the fourth and final chapter of Jacques Derrida’s The Gift of Death, translated by David Wills (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1995), 82-115. 57. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 89. 58. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 22. 59. To consider each other as the “same” is of course inviting difficulties, not the least of which is the ambiguity in the English “same,” which can refer to both qualitative and numerical sameness (an ambiguity which is not to be found in Danish). Further, it would hardly seem to fit for Kierkegaard, our prophet of singularity and the champion of “that individual,” that we are identical selves. While it can readily be granted that “the sameness” refers to equality and equal existential conditions, it does not seem entirely clear from the passage on the common watermark and the reference to “eternity’s light” that this is all that Kierkegaard can be taken as signifying. There is thus a tension between the focus on individuality and singularity, which is related to dissimilarity and asymmetry, and the common watermark seen from the perspective of eternal love, which would turn one away from the dissimilarity and turn one toward the possibility of developing symmetrical relationships. In my view, we should not seek readily to dismiss the tension, but rather see if it may be productive. 60. Ferreira, Love’s Grateful Striving, 171. 61. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 209. 62. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 222-223. 63. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 222. 64. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, 214. 65. West, Reason and Sexuality in Western Thought, 150. 66. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, 214. 67. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2. My italics. 68. Levinas, Entre Nous: Thinking-of-the-Other, 103. 69. Levinas, Entre Nous: Thinking-of-the-Other, 108. These remarks were recorded on October 3 and 8, 1982. 70. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, xi. 71. Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity, translated by Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1969), 254. 72. Levinas, Entre Nous: Thinking-of-the-Other, 105. 73. Emmanuel Levinas with Richard Kearney, “Dialogue with Emmanuel Levinas,” Face to Face with Levinas, edited by Richard A. Cohen (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1986), 31. 74. Levinas, Ethics and Infinity, 98. 75. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 178. 76. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 254. 77. As seen above, Kierkegaard claims in Works of Love that there are distinct types of love. Levinas, in apparent agreement, denies the possibility of a relation between the two kinds of love. In responding to a question regarding the difference between Eros and Agape he says: “I don’t think that Agape comes from Eros . . . I think in any case that Eros is definitely not Agape, that Agape is neither derivative nor the extinction of love-Eros” (Entre Nous, 113).

Love’s Eternity


78. While there are good reasons for being wary of speaking in terms of transcendence and immanence—terms which previously marked an irresolvable debate on God and now seem to have wandered to perhaps an equally irresolvable debate about the nature of the self and the other—the question whether the other is transcendent and welcoming him is an event of transcendence is one that nevertheless presents itself. 79. This is what is required for the edification of love. See “Love Builds Up” in Works of Love. 80. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 195. 81. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 12. 82. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 305. 83. For Derrida says, “But it is Kierkegaard to whom I have been most faithful and who interests me most: absolute existence, the meaning he gives to subjectivity, the resistance of existence to the concept or the system—this is something I attach great importance to and feel very deeply, something I am always ready to stand up for.” Jacques Derrida and Maurizio Ferraris, A Taste for the Secret, translated by Giacomo Donis (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2001), 40. 84. Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1978), 110. 85. Mark Dooley, The Politics of Exodus: Kierkegaard’s Ethics of Responsibility (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2001), 215–216. 86. Ferreira, Love’s Grateful Striving, 211. 87. A common view is found in Levinas, who writes: “Maternity is the complete being ‘for the other’ which characterizes it” in Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, translated by Alphonso Lingis (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991), 48. 88. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 213–214. For additional works suggesting that Elskov and Kjerlighed may indeed be related in important ways, see Ferriera’s Love’s Grateful Striving and Rick Anthony Furtak’s Wisdom in Love: Kierkegaard and the Ancient Quest for Emotional Integrity (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 2005). Furtak’s view is that these two apparently different kinds of love share a common origin and cannot be essentially separated (102). 89. Dooley, The Politics of Exodus, 207. 90. As Derrida explains in The Gift of Death the border between these terms is problematic (83-84). 91. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 194. 92. Levinas, Entre Nous, 200. 93. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 253. 94. See Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 189f. 95. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 13. 96. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 14.

Chapter Six

Love’s Fall

My dear Socrates, that, then, is the nature of the Spirit called Love. . . . On the basis of what you say, I conclude that you thought Love was being loved, rather than being a lover . . . but being a lover takes a different form. —Plato 1 To be absolutely certain of being loved is not to love. —Kierkegaard 2 Spiritual love, on the other hand, takes away from myself all natural determinants and all self-love. —Kierkegaard 3

The expression “falling in love” is misleading on at least two accounts. In the first place, it suggests an overall passivity that cannot be seen as belonging to the phenomenological conception of love developed throughout the preceding pages. While there is undoubtedly a certain sense of passivity that we can speak of meaningfully with regard to love—such as in the initial passivity of the flesh that welcomes the other—to cast the erotic phenomenon in a totally passive light does not do justice to the experience. For however questionable may be my status as a free and separate self—since I can never convincingly maintain that I am the ground of myself or the love that I experience—it is nevertheless clear that without my active consent I would not be able to advance and enter into the loving reduction that suspends the natural attitude. In other words, without my active willingness, however awkward, to risk the relation that unfolds love’s intentionality and brings me in step with eternity, love cannot happen.



Chapter 6

In the second place, the expression “falling in love” is misleading for it suggests a completely downward movement, one that lends itself to the many negative perspectives on love found throughout the history of philosophy, such as those extolled by Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and Jean-Paul Sartre. 4 But as Kierkegaard clearly explains, love is up-building, the movement is from the essential, but hidden, foundation upwards as “to build up means, then, to construct something from the ground up into the heights.” 5 Love alone, then, provides the way to see beyond oneself, such that when one is grounded in love the only movement possible is up. Or, as Spinoza suggests, one transitions “from a lesser to a greater perfection.” 6 Thus, rather than falling in love, it can more clearly be seen that insofar as one is falling, one falls out of love, which is to say that one fails to love as best one can when one does not start from the foundation which requires giving up oneself in order to give of oneself. In this and the following chapter, then, I shall examine two principle ways in which one may be seen to fall away from love, and these will likely prove surprising, if not controversial, and it is not without some reluctance that I pursue these investigations that lead, at least partially, in a direction different from the one we have followed to this point. Nevertheless, whether one can love oneself and whether one can love God are viable questions within the philosophy of love, and they also appear prominently within Kierkegaard’s writings. In light of the analysis of the phenomenon of love that has been developed in previous chapters, however, we shall find that the attempts to love oneself and to love (fear) God prove to be problematic in significant ways, such that it appears all the more likely that one will fall away from love than succeed in these attempts. At least this will be the case insofar as loving oneself and loving God are conceptually distinguished from loving others, and if they are not, if they are in fact conceptually equivalent, then we really only need to concern ourselves with loving others. We shall attend first to the question of the love of self in this chapter, and then see how this leads in a rather convoluted way to the question of the love of God and the possibility of loving God in fearful trembling, which will be the subject of the following chapter. Of primary concern in investigating both of these questions is whether either of these possibilities can be elucidated phenomenologically. The question of the self and the possibility of self-love has been lurking in many parts of this work, especially in the reflections on the ego and the common watermark, with the latter designation pointing to the paradoxical possibility that the “true self” is not that which is separate, distinct, and dissimilar from all others, but rather that which is held in common and founded by God. Consequently the question of “who I am” and what it means to be an individual cannot be easily avoided, even if these questions do not emerge as primary within the philosophy of love. Can we discuss the pos-

Love’s Fall


sibility of self-love without understanding what it means to be a self? In a recent work titled Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love, John Lippett suggests that we can provide a normative account of self-love without answering the metaphysical question of selfhood, 7 but what about the phenomenological question? Given the rich experience of the love of another that has been discussed above, can we proceed to a normative account when the experience of self-love does not present itself as given and is devoid of a comparable intuition? For while in the saturated experience of loving the other, in which the other calls to me and occasions my loving deeds, who calls to me in the case of self-love? Where is the experience of an encounter that allows me to bring love forth? Can I call myself or manifest myself to myself as the other? How would this be possible? In considering the question of self-love in Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love, Works of Love is a valid starting point, as the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” seemingly indicates that you both can and should love yourself. So, how is self-love to be understood? Here Kierkegaard’s text may be of questionable use, however, for his discussion of self-love is at best ambiguous and focuses overwhelmingly on what is problematic or negative in the attempt to love oneself. 8 Given that I am suggesting that Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love can be understood well as a phenomenological view—and we can refer to Heidegger to make the important point that philosophy is essentially phenomenological 9—I shall begin this investigation into the possibility of self-love by considering the phenomenological conception of the self. 10 Specifically, I shall examine the claim that the phenomenological tradition unanimously affirms that the core self is to be found in pre-reflective consciousness, and I shall argue that the notion of the minimal self as first-person subjective givenness is problematic in important ways. Problematizing this view will provide an opening for further conceptualizing Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of love and the crucial implications it holds for the phenomenology of selfhood and self-love. PHENOMENOLOGY AND THE SEARCH FOR THE SELF In contemporary phenomenology of mind we find a case for situating the core self, the center of subjectivity, in the pre-reflective self-consciousness. Immediately, however, a worry occurs, for it is surely problematic to think that the phenomenological method, with its focus on the things themselves and letting them appear to consciousness as they are without any metaphysical presuppositions, can unveil, examine, and ultimately know that which is pre-reflective. Surely, that which is purely pre-reflective cannot be the subject of a logical, philosophical investigation, which by its very nature lies on


Chapter 6

the plane of reflection. What is it then that would lead one to proceed in this manner? Is it because one feels the pre-reflective self, the supposed core self, can actually be glimpsed out of the corner of one’s eye, although as soon as one turns to look it changes its position? Reflective consciousness undoubtedly posits a self—a complex being that is structured as narrative, embodied, enacted, and extended—but is it right in maintaining that this self is actually founded on another, more primordial self? If it is, then, is it right to understand this primordial self as a singular being, one that expresses a first-person perspective? In this section I shall argue that the use of term “self” in the expression “pre-reflective self-consciousness” is not warranted, and there is ample evidence within the phenomenological tradition, broadly construed, to support this view. Further, I shall suggest that what we can glimpse at the core of pre-reflective consciousness is at best “personally open” or “personally indifferent,” and reveals life in general, rather than an isolated human subject. Thus we shall see that a phenomenological investigation into the nature of selfhood will problematize a positive account of self-love. One of the richest and most clear-headed treatments of the self and subjectivity can be found in the recent work of Dan Zahavi, in particular his Subjectivity and Selfhood 11 and The Phenomenological Mind, which is coauthored by Shaun Gallagher. 12 What makes these works exciting is their breadth of understanding, as they proceed from a phenomenological perspective, but one that is not unaware of analytic investigations into the philosophy of mind and recent experimental work in the cognitive sciences. Just what does this enhanced phenomenological perspective have to say about the perennial philosophical question of the self? Zahavi opens his Subjectivity and Selfhood by raising a series of questions; the most direct of which is this: What is a self? 13 He then asks: “Is it a conceptual and experiential truth that any episode of experiencing necessarily involves a subject of experience?” and “Is self-awareness always to be understood as awareness of a self, or can it rather be understood simply as the awareness that a specific experience has of itself?” 14 Already this last question raises concerns, for it appears that the notion of self is equivocal, and it seems self-evident that the clearest perspective of the self will be one that avoids equivocation as far as possible. So, is it appropriate to use the term self in both parts of the question, or would it be clearer to reserve the term “self-awareness” for “an awareness of a self” and to avoid the awkward notion of “the awareness that a specific experience has of itself”? Zahavi attempts to integrate the investigations of self, self-awareness, and experience, and it seems to me that this integration is founded on his understanding of the seemingly synonymous notions of self-awareness, self-consciousness, and pre-reflective self-consciousness. Although well aware that “the term ‘self-awareness’ is notoriously ambiguous,” 15 Zahavi intends to use this term to refer to a primitive, minimalist notion of self that is to be

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found in the writings of “literally all the major figures in phenomenology.” 16 This claim, I shall argue, is problematic, and with it Patrick Stokes’s recent suggestion that Kierkegaard is connected with the phenomenological tradition by affirming a similar view “60 years before Husserl.” 17 For starters, who are all these major figures? Unfortunately, Zahavi doesn’t name them in this passage, but one gathers from the larger context that the reference is to Husserl, Heidegger, and Sartre. As we shall see, however, the views of these thinkers are by no means unanimous, and their positions on the question of the self are not entirely clear. Strictly speaking, the notion of the self that Zahavi is advocating is found in the later Husserl (not the Husserl of the Logical Investigations), perhaps in the later Sartre (not the Sartre of The Transcendence of the Ego), and in the early Heidegger of Being and Time (but not the later Heidegger). Let us consider these views briefly. First, Zahavi rightly recognizes that the views of Husserl and Sartre in particular share some affinities to non-egological theories of consciousness. In the Logical Investigations Husserl held that “experiences are not states or properties of anybody, but mental events that simply occur” 18 and in The Transcendence of the Ego—the title itself expresses the central claim of the work—Sartre powerfully argues that “constituting consciousness” or “unreflective consciousness” is absolutely “impersonal; or, if you like, ‘pre-personal,’ without an I.” 19 It is interesting to note that in this early work by Sartre he is criticizing the later Husserl. Be that as it may, Zahavi argues that both Husserl and Sartre come to reject as mistaken their early view that prereflective consciousness lacks a clear sense of self. While the evidence Zahavi presents may be seen as supporting the position on the philosophers’ changing thoughts, 20 it does not clearly demonstrate that the earlier views found in Husserl’s Logical Investigations and Sartre’s The Transcendence of the Ego were, in fact, mistaken. Specifically, regarding Sartre, Zahavi argues that Sartre made a crucial move when he distinguished the ego from the self. Where this distinction is made is not cited, although it is suggested to have occurred in Being and Nothingness. Here Sartre writes: “pre-reflective consciousness is self-consciousness. It is this same notion of self which must be studied, for it defines the very being of consciousness.” 21 But as rightly suggested by Stephen Priest, how this “self” fits with Sartre’s view that ultimately “consciousness is a ‘nothingness,’ a pure awareness of objects” remains unexplained. 22 In addition, Priest explains nicely how Sartre’s famous and “perhaps paradoxical” statement in The Transcendence of the Ego that “consciousness is conscious of itself” 23 is quite distinct from self-consciousness. He writes: Although “being conscious of” sounds like a relationship and “being conscious of itself” sounds like a reflexive relationship, these would be rather misleading interpretations of the nature of consciousness in Sartre’s view. This is because


Chapter 6 consciousness’s being consciousness of consciousness is something which characterizes pre-reflective consciousness for Sartre. This is a kind of consciousness quite distinct from self-consciousness. . . . Pre-reflective consciousness is a kind of consciousness of consciousness in which no self appears. 24

Priest goes on to argue that the claim that consciousness is conscious of itself cannot be verified and that the evidence for this claim is “only a weak and inductive kind,” and yet “despite these severe philosophical difficulties for Sartre’s claim,” Priest admits that the claim is not necessarily false or meaningless, and thus leaves it “open as a logical possibility.” 25 None of this is enough to conclude positively that the notion of self is founded in prereflective consciousness, so let us now turn to Heidegger. The Heideggerian notion of “mineness” is central to the phenomenological perspective on the core self, for it is claimed that a central feature of this self is that whatever is experienced is experienced as mine or for me. First, it is important to note what Einar Øverenget has pointed out in Seeing the Self: Heidegger on Subjectivity, namely that Heidegger never actually “uses the term ‘self-consciousness’ [Selbstbewusstsein] in Being and Time.” 26 Nevertheless, it is well known that Heidegger’s work poses significant interpretive difficulties, and although he does not agree with the view, Mark Okrent admits that it is nevertheless defensible to claim that the essential feature of Dasein “appears to be just the one that has traditionally been taken to be distinctive to human being . . . since Descartes: self-awareness, or selfconsciousness.” 27 Øverenget corroborates by showing convincingly that such a claim “is not off target.” 28 Second, there are additional problems occasioned by Heidegger’s shifting positions, and the fact that he later abandons the notion of mineness. This is clearly demonstrated by Michel Haar, who shows that “as early as the Beitrage (G.A. 65) of 1936–1938, Heidegger breaks with two essential features of Dasein,” one of which is “the purely formal character of mineness.” 29 Haar explains how the later Heidegger (after the Turning) not only denies the mineness of Dasein, but he speaks of the self “in a radically non-subjective way.” 30 The questions this thinking leads to are nicely raised by Haar: How is an ipseity conceivable which no longer has at all the form of representative consciousness and no longer leads back to an individual self? How is it possible to reject the self, whether it be substantial or formal, to deconstruct the subject and the representation, and yet paradoxically maintain “reflection” as the essence of man? What could a non-subjective, non-individual reflection be, which would nevertheless have the characteristic of ipseity and not be a self-reflection of the absolute? 31

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Thus a brief look at these major phenomenological figures and some significant recent scholarship suggests that an alternative phenomenological perspective to the one offered by Zahavi is possible, and that for Husserl, Sartre, and Heidegger it is clearly questionable whether they all unequivocally defend the notion of a subjective self in pre-reflective consciousness. In addition, we can also inquire into other prominent figures in the phenomenological tradition, such as Gadamer, Merleau-Ponty, Ricoeur, and Derrida. Here the agreement is far from clear, as a glance at a few passages from key works will demonstrate. In Truth and Method, Gadamer emphasizes the great importance of the historical tradition we belong to in understanding ourselves, and he writes that “subjectivity is a distorting mirror. The selfawareness of the individual is only a flickering in the closed circuits of historical life.” 32 In the Phenomenology of Perception Merleau-Ponty writes: “It is because it is a preobjective view that being-in-the-world can be distinguished from every third person process, from every modality of the res extensa, as from every cogitatio, from every first person form of knowledge,” and one could certainly explore Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy for further insight in this regard. 33 For Ricoeur the “positing of the self . . . is at once the positing of a being and of an act; the positing of an existence and of an operation of thought: I am, I think; to exist, for me, is to think; I exist inasmuch as I think. Since this truth cannot be verified like a fact, nor deduced like a conclusion, it has to posit itself in reflexion; its self-positing is reflexion . . . .” 34 And in Derrida’s well-known essay “Difference” we read: But can we not conceive of a presence and self-presence of the subject before speech or its signs, a subject’s self-presence in a silent and intuitive consciousness? Such a question therefore supposes that prior to signs and outside them, and excluding every trace and difference, something such as consciousness is possible. It supposes, moreover, that, even before the distribution of its signs in space and in the world, consciousness can gather itself up in its own presence. What then is consciousness? What does “consciousness” mean? Most often in the very form of “meaning,” consciousness in all its modifications is conceivable only as self-presence, a self-perception of presence. And what holds for consciousness also holds here for what is called subjective existence in general. Just as the category of subject is not and never has been conceivable without reference to presence as hypokeimenon or ousia, etc., so the subject as consciousness . . . thus means a privilege accorded to the present . . . . This privilege is the ether of metaphysics, the very element of our thought insofar as it is caught up in the language of metaphysics. 35


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Perhaps one would object that these figures—Gadamer, Merleau-Ponty, Ricoeur, and Derrida—are neither major nor truly phenomenological, but such a view would be disingenuous. Consider now more fully this important passage from The Phenomenological Mind: Literally all of the major figures in phenomenology defend the view that a minimal form of self-consciousness is a constant structural feature of conscious experience. Experience happens for the experiencing subject in an immediate way and as part of this immediacy, it is implicitly marked as my experience. For the phenomenologists, this immediate and first-personal givenness of experiential phenomena must be accounted for in terms of a “prereflective” self-consciousness. 36

As the evidence from the major phenomenologists cited above has demonstrated, this claim goes too far. It seems rather that, literally, all the major figures in phenomenology are quite far from unanimously affirming a core subjective self in pre-reflective consciousness. Further, although the notion of a self that Gallagher and Zahavi are arguing for here is a minimalist one, one that is arguably tacit and non-thematic, is it not a strong contention that this core self, which will serve to found the other notions of self and subjectivity, is that which is pre-reflective (or “unreflective” as Sartre would have said)? Is it not problematic, both phenomenologically and theoretically, to claim that before or without looking, before or without casting a reflective gaze, I can know that there is a first-person experience, an experience that is mine? By what argument shall we conclude that pre-reflective consciousness is first-personal and subjective? Before proceeding, it is important to note that Gallagher and Zahavi distinguish between “a weak and a strong first-person perspective.” They write: “Whereas the latter presupposes mastery of the first-person pronoun and entails the actual adoption of a position or perspective on oneself (as in ‘I am angry’ or ‘I would like some coffee’), the former is simply a question of the first-personal, subjective manifestation of one’s own experiential life.” 37 Indeed, as I maintain, the question is precisely whether pre-reflective experiential life is first-personal and subjective, so the distinction between a weak and strong perspective does not alleviate the problem. One of the reasons for considering Zahavi’s contemporary perspective on the self over others is the clarity of the arguments for this position. But sometimes language does create difficulties. Zahavi writes: “In its most primitive and fundamental form, self-consciousness is taken to be a question of having first-personal access to one’s own consciousness; it is a question of the first-personal givenness or manifestation of experiential life.” 38 Yes, what is taken to be “a question of” is precisely that, a question. These are not “matters of” (which is how I think we are expected to understand the phrase

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“a question of”) self-evident experience. As I am suggesting, the question of whether the givenness of pre-reflective experiential life is first-personal cannot be answered with any certainty. The argument for “the existence of a tacit and unthematic self-awareness,” Zahavi explains, “is occasionally an indirect argument by elimination . . . .” 39 Phenomenologists would first deny that we could consciously experience something without in some way having access to or being acquainted with the experience in question. They would then argue that this first-person access to one’s own experiences amounts to a form of self-awareness. ( . . . ) As for the more specific claims concerning the structure of this pre-reflective self-awareness, in particular the claim that it is nonobjectifying and therefore not the result of any self-directed intentionality, phenomenologists would insist that this claim is based on a correct phenomenological description of our conscious life—in everyday life, I might enjoy a continuous first-personal access to my own consciousness, but I am definitely not aware of my own stream of consciousness as a succession of immanent marginal objects—and that this is the best argument to be found. 40

Although not entirely satisfying, it seems correct to proceed indirectly, for finding a direct argument for the existence of a self in pre-reflective consciousness seems doomed to failure from the start. Still, however sympathetic I am to this general phenomenological approach, labeling this as “the best argument to be found” is troubling, for surely having first-person access to an experience does not necessarily entail that the experience in question is a first-person experience. The experience and the consequent access to it must be understood as different and separate movements, although they will be continuously intertwined throughout our conscious lives. Is it not entirely possible that pre-reflective conscious experience is pre-personal? In other words, it is not pre-reflectively understood as mine, but it is through the firstperson access to this experience that it takes on the quality of mineness. This may involve rejecting Heidegger’s claim that “every consciousness is also self-consciousness,” 41 but as Derrida has shown quite convincingly in The Animal That Therefore I Am, Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein may in certain respects prolong the life of the Cartesian cogito and is in need of being entirely recontextualized. The question is whether one can “free the relation of Dasein to being from every living, utilitarian, perspective-making project, from every vital design, such that man himself could ‘let the being be.’” 42 Here, Derrida writes, “the stakes are so radical that they concern ‘ontological difference,’ the ‘question of being,’ the whole framework of Heideggerian discourse.” 43


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The pivotal chapter in Zahavi’s Subjectivity and Selfhood is chapter 5, “Consciousness and Self,” where he reintroduces the key questions of his study; one of which is this: “When we speak of self-awareness, do we then necessarily also speak of a self?” After carefully surveying the many different notions of the self, Zahavi answers affirmatively that where there is prereflective self-awareness there is “a minimal sense of self present,” such a self is characterized as first-person givenness and the “what it is like” of experience. Considering the way the question is posed, it would be odd to not conclude there is a sense of self, but why ask the question in this way? Has not a self been reflectively assumed from the start of the question? If, instead, we ask about “awareness” or “pre-reflective consciousness” will we be as ready to conclude that a sense of self is necessarily found here? And, further, is a “sense of self” the same thing as “a self”? Questions of the self beget more questions. Although the phenomenological method with its focus on “the things themselves” can and does deal with “things” that manifest themselves through their non-appearance (consider, for example, Sartre’s treatment of nothingness in Being and Nothingness or Marion’s analysis of the flesh of the other in The Erotic Phenomenon), this is not the argument that Zahavi makes. Instead, he concludes there is a specifically structured presence, assumedly human, that is the minimal self belonging to pre-reflective consciousness. But try as one may, it is impossible to unveil this core nonreflective self through a reflective phenomenological reduction. When one reflects on the experiences of being absorbed in reading or viewing a landscape (common examples found in phenomenological texts), what is clear is that there is givenness and consciousness, and one can agree that there is first-person access to these states. My reflective gaze seems somehow to be lurking alongside these experiences, but to claim that such pre-reflective experiential states are intrinsically first-personal and subjective, to claim that they are mine in the absence of a reflective I or ego, seems to go too far. Even taking a Brentanian route to argue that consciousness grasps itself per accidens or en parergo at best yields what Brentano called an “additional consciousness” (Bewusstseinsnebenbei), which is still not clearly self-consciousness (Selbstbewusstsein). 44 Here Zahavi would no doubt respond that implying such a criticism assumes a fixed, substantial notion of the self from the modern philosophical tradition from Descartes to Kant and that his phenomenological perspective views the self differently as an experiential dimension. It is, however, unclear how this so-called phenomenological notion can be taken as completely severed from the prior philosophical tradition. Support for this claim can be found in Øverenget, who explains how “Sartre . . . revealed an intrinsic relationship between phenomenology and Kantian phi-

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losophy,” 45 and Priest, who claims more boldly that “damagingly, the doctrine of the pre-reflexive consciousness implies . . . Cartesianism.” 46 Perhaps Cartesian metaphysics does die a long, slow death. 47 THE APORIA OF SELFHOOD We must of course be very careful about what we are to conclude about the self. Thus, for similar reasons, to argue that pre-reflective states of awareness are unconscious and to go further by maintaining a “no self doctrine,” which generally holds that all talk of a self is illusory or delusional, is also claiming more than is warranted. Zahavi’s account does have the benefit of avoiding the infinite regress generated by higher-order theories of consciousness that juxtapose unconscious and conscious states, but how it does this is curious. On this theory the way a mental state becomes conscious or “comes to be given as my state” is found in the claim that “first-person givenness is an ineliminable part of what it means for a state to be conscious.” 48 But don’t we have to show first how what is claimed here is possible? Further, can’t this problem also be avoided by arguing that pre-reflective states are instrinsically conscious? Of course, how they are conscious would not be explained and it would also not be clear for whom they are conscious, but perhaps a certain explanatory vacuity must be accepted. Does it still make sense to speak of a self in pre-reflective consciousness? In the previous section I have raised concerns serious enough to suggest that an affirmative answer involving a first-person subject is not without its problems. Nevertheless, this has not resulted in advocating a no-self theory. Zahavi rightly observes that the “distinction between an egological and a nonegological theory turns out to be too crude a distinction.” 49 In a similar manner, I would like to suggest that we avoid the dichotomies self/no self, first person/no person, and instead think of pre-reflective consciousness as personally indifferent, 50 or more positively expressed, personally open. This openness can then be conceived as expressing a fundamental relationality, which within the context of the philosophy of love is particularly suggestive. Avoiding metaphysical conclusions regarding selves or persons has proven to be no small challenge, but it seems that one can remain open to the prospect of selfhood while realizing that what reveals itself in pre-reflective consciousness is a complex phenomenon of life that far exceeds the structures of a (presumably human) minimal self. In the “Introduction” to The Phenomenological Mind Gallagher and Zahavi write that “the phenomenologist does not get locked up in an experience that is purely subjective, or detached from the world,” 51 and it is for precisely this reason that I think we would do well to conclude that pre-reflective consciousness is personally open rather than subjectively fixed. Thus, the


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argument that the “sense of self” given in pre-reflective consciousness is the purely subjective first-person givenness of what it is like to be me is at best a product of reflection (and thus not pre-reflective), and at worst a metaphysical caprice. It seems that instead of finding “a sense of self,” what is given in pre-reflective conscious awareness is a sense of life or a sense of living and this “sense” is not separate or detached from the world—and we do well to note here that the etymological roots of the word “self” reveal the meanings “separate, apart.” 52 What a theory of consciousness founded on this sense— which we may consider to include love—might involve remains a project of thought; the living and the loving has already begun. FROM VICTOR EREMITA TO VICTOR AMANS What, now, does Kierkegaard have to contribute to the phenomenology of selfhood? Perhaps the most obvious, initial response to this question is “very much indeed.” Readers will find, however, that the most prominent studies devoted to Kierkegaard’s notion of the self have focused their attention on the pseudonymous works, 53 and much of the recent discussion on Kierkegaard and narrativity since Alasdair MacIntyre’s influential After Virtue (1981) has occurred without a sustained reflection on Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love. Can we seriously entertain the view that we can understand selfhood without considering love? At best such works provide an incomplete vision of Kierkegaard’s notion of self, while at worst they provide a hermeneutically distorted one, since a direct reflection on Works of Love— arguably “the central work in Kierkegaard’s entire authorship” 54 —is lacking. Thus it will have already become clear that when addressing the question of selfhood and the issue of a foundational self in Kierkegaard, I think we do well to consider the view of self expressed in Kierkegaard’s Works of Love and related views that can be found in his Edifying Discourses. Let us nevertheless consider directly the question of what Kierkegaard may have thought about pre-reflective consciousness and its relation to selfhood. Although Kierkegaard did not use the expression “pre-reflective consciousness,” it does not seem unreasonable to equate this with the term “immediacy,” inherited from the context of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Using Either/Or as a guide, one can easily follow traditional readings and argue that for “A,” the aesthete lacking a name—by which one indirectly understands that he is also lacking a self—immediacy itself does not justify positing a self. In this regard, then, the thesis that pre-reflective consciousness is personally open fits with the fragment of lived experience expressed in A’s papers as edited by Victor Eremita. Further, it also fits neatly with the claim in Johannes Climacus that “immediacy is precisely indeterminate-

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ness,” 55 since it is because we have understood pre-reflective consciousness as indeterminate that we have taken it to be personally open. So far so good, but what if we follow the suggestion above and begin our quest for the self with the phenomenology of love, where will this lead? As argued by many Kierkegaard scholars, the general hermeneutic movement in Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous works is toward becoming a self. When we read Works of Love, however, it is interesting to find that the movement is away from the self and the struggle is not necessarily to become a self, at least not in any usual sense, but rather to erase the self that one has taken oneself to be. 56 Thus Works of Love opens significantly by discoursing on being self-deceived (and in the present context one should not be deceived in becoming a self that one essentially is not). It continues by expressing the need to wrest self-love out of a person and to become victorious over the self. One might therefore say that the goal is not to be a Victor Eremita, that victorious hermit who wins a self, but rather a Victor Amans, that victorious lover who denies and renounces the dissimilar, historical, finite self (would this not be the narratively constituted self?) in order to uncover that which can only be expressed equivocally as the “true self” or metaphorically as the common watermark. Thus, at least this much should be clear, Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love and the understanding of love’s intentionality developed thus far can be seen as leading reflection away from the first personal self and toward the common watermark. Nevertheless, let us consider the question of self-love more directly and whether this possibility can be accounted for phenomenologically. THE AMBIGUITY OF SELF-LOVE Having seen that a phenomenological investigation of selfhood leads to aporia, we are now in a better position to consider the notion of self-love and the question of whether it is possible to love oneself. Admittedly, the prospects for a sound understanding of self-love do not look good. However sorely and ironically neglected in the past, the philosophy of love may no longer be as forsaken as it used to be. And yet one of the most challenging, and possibly foundational, questions in this reemerging area of research is whether it is possible to love oneself, and if so, how? For Aristotle the question of self-love called for “serious inquiry,” 57 and yet there appears to be much ambiguity about the possibility and nature of self-love. This ambiguity is clearly present in Kierkegaard’s Works of Love and his attempt to understand the presupposition in the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. For, on the one hand, Kierkegaard writes that the commandment “wrenches open the lock of self-love and wrests it away from a person,” 58 but, on the other hand, he claims that the commandment


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“does not want to teach a person that he is not to love himself but rather wants to teach him proper self-love.” 59 Such ambiguity has prompted thoughtful recent analyses by Sharon Krishek, who in Kierkegaard on Faith and Love (2009) distinguishes three distinct forms of self-love at play in Kierkegaard’s text, 60 and Lippitt’s Kierkegaard and the Problem of SelfLove (2013) attempts to bring some clarity to the issue, as he “draw[s] upon Kierkegaard’s work, especially Works of Love, to map out some important features of proper self-love,” 61 which we shall consider in more detail below. Thus, it is fair to say that within Kierkegaard studies there is a prominent view that affirms the possibility of “proper self-love” and thereby maintains an ambiguous, dualistic account. Further, the ambiguity of self-love also appears in contrasting the influential work of two major contemporary philosophers who provide two powerful accounts leading in opposing directions: Jean-Luc Marion, who argues that self-love is impossible, and Harry Frankfurt, whose work The Reasons of Love culminates in a chapter on “The Dear Self” in which he argues that selflove is “the purest form of love.” 62 Frankfurt’s view thus seems in line with the late singer Whitney Houston’s song that loving one’s self is “The Greatest Love of All,” although he would likely disagree that it “is easy to achieve.” 63 Frankfurt’s view will also be considered in greater detail below in our endeavor to see whether a plausible account of self-love can be established. Given my concern to consider matters of love phenomenologically, we may take Marion’s phenomenological investigation in The Erotic Phenomenon to hold heightened significance, because his is the only work developed using this methodological approach. The question of self-love, of course, is far from new. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses we find Narcissus making a passionate attempt to love himself and yet failing “in that great love.” 64 Thus we can question whether Narcissus fails in his attempt to love himself because of his own inability. Or, could it instead be because self-love is fundamentally impossible, in which case “that great love” is seen for what it really is, a phantom, a fleeting image, that does not represent any true phenomenon? Although Aristotle calls for a serious inquiry, if one looks for a clear understanding of the nature of self-love in Aristotle one looks in vain. In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle distinguishes a reproachable self-love with a virtuous one, thus marking the latter as true self-love, and he claims that “a man should be a lover of self; but in the sense in which most men are so, he ought not.” 65 However, in The Eudemian Ethics, which Anthony Kenny persuasively argues to be Aristotle’s major moral treatise, 66 the notion of true self-love seems to be undermined. Here Aristotle writes that “self-love is not friendship [philia, i.e., love] pure and simple, but it is analogous to it. For

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loving and being loved require two separate partners.” 67 Thus, it seems that Aristotle would find Frankfurt’s view highly problematic, for at best, what we call “self-love” is merely analogous to love, it is not love itself. When approaching Kierkegaard on this or any matter, it is important to remember that Kierkegaard is a master of irony, and that an ironist recognizes, perhaps more astutely than anyone else, the great opacity of the self. Reading Kierkegaard through the lens of irony, as I have argued previously, 68 is appropriate not only when discussing the pseudonymous works, but it applies equally to his signed, or veronymous works, such as Works of Love (1847). Here an ironic tone is sounded from the start, which is to say the preface, where Kierkegaard explains that love is “something that in its total richness is essentially inexhaustible . . . and essentially cannot be described.” 69 Thus the reader enters a text that cannot be about what it essentially would want to be about—a book on love, for this cannot adequately be expressed in language—and this forces our author to shift to a discourse on “works of love” instead. Following the preface we find a Prayer, and at the end of the prayer we find the first use of the word “self”—a usage which is eminently significant for the philosophy of love that Kierkegaard will unravel. He writes: “There are indeed some works that human language specifically and narrowly calls works of love, but in heaven no work can be pleasing unless it is a work of love: sincere in self-renunciation, a need in love itself, and for that very reason without any claim of meritoriousness!” 70 The key to loving for Kierkegaard is self-renunciation, which ironically here suggests that we should not even be concerned with the question of the self, and this yields another reason for the reluctance involved in expanding upon this question. Many thoughtful readers may suggest that self-renunciation, then, sets the stage for a perspective that runs throughout Kierkegaard’s text, and one that may actually seem contrary to the goal of the pseudonymous writings, at least what is often described as the their goal, that is, becoming a self. This perspective, namely that love requires self-renunciation and other-affirmation, must be seen as a guiding principle for Kierkegaard, one that appears to undermine the whole point and purpose of the pursuit of self-love. For doesn’t self-love involve self-affirmation, which is the contrary of self-renunciation? Or, is there some less direct interpretation of self-love that might save the concept? The first direct reference to self-love in Works of Love makes it very clear that love is not to be confused with self-love, and further, that loving actually requires one to give up self-love. Kierkegaard writes: “For example, one may make the mistake of calling love [Kjerlighed] that which is really self-love [Selvkjerlighed]: when one loudly protests that he cannot live without his beloved but will hear nothing about love’s task and demand, which is that he deny himself and give up the self-love of erotic love [Elskov].” 71 Thus


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Kierkegaard initially attacks self-love and links it with Elskov, which apparently is to be sharply distinguished from Kjerlighed itself, or what he describes variously as eternal love, the spirit’s love, self-denial’s love, and unconditional love, or as I have suggested above could also be understood as pure love. It is also important to recognize here that the reason for finding an expression of self-love to be only mistakenly considered love is that it is not directly focused on the beloved, or in other words, it is not other-affirming. Further support for the argument that Kierkegaard offers readers a phenomenology of love can be found in his focus on the intentional act that accompanies a work of love rather than the specific work itself. In other words, those more familiar to readers of Kierkegaard, he focuses on the “how” rather than the “what.” From a phenomenological perspective, this means that it is not the act itself that determines that love is present, but rather the act-as-intended, and this involves a movement away from selflove. Consider this passage: There is no work, not one single one, not even the best, about which we unconditionally dare to say: The one who does this unconditionally demonstrates love by it. It depends on how the work is done. There are, of course, works that in a particular sense are called works of love. But even giving to charity, visiting the widow, and clothing the naked do not truly demonstrate or make known a person’s love, inasmuch as one can do works of love in an unloving, yes, even in a self-loving way, and if this is so the work of love is no work of love at all.

How, then, the word is said and above all how it is meant, how, then, the work is done—this is decisive in determining and in recognizing love by its fruits. 72 Kierkegaard thus clearly indicates that his phenomenology of love holds that self-love is the very opposite of love. For here Kierkegaard considers on a large scale what is required for a deed to be loving, and he equates “selfloving” with “unloving,” such that any work done in “a self-loving way” is “no work of love at all.” When we turn to Kierkegaard’s complex analysis of the commandment “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” we find simultaneously that the attack on self-love deepens while the ambiguity of self-love emerges. Thus, perhaps it is the author of the commandment that is ultimately responsible for the ambiguity of self-love. Be this as it may, for Kierkegaard the presupposition that everyone loves him- or herself does not imply that one should love oneself—“it does not proclaim self-love as a prescriptive right” 73—but rather when brought together with the expression to love the neighbor, self-love should be removed from human beings. 74 For, if I am to love you as myself, then this movement of love has the effect of making you, the neighbor, primary, while I become secondary at best. This seems clear enough pheno-

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menologically, for in my experience of love the other becomes the central point of focus on the horizon, while I and my own concerns become blurred. Would we not now be justified in arguing simply that love and self-love do not mix and dispense with the concept of self-love altogether? Unfortunately not, at least for Kierkegaard, for on the very next page of Works of Love what we read sets the concept of self-love in motion and verges on self-contradiction: “Just as Jacob limped after having struggled with God, so will self-love be broken if it has struggled with this phrase that does not want to teach a person that he is not to love himself but rather wants to teach him proper self-love.” 75 How is it that this commandment can be interpreted as both intending forcefully to remove self-love from a person, while at the same time teaching that person proper self-love? Would we not be much better off philosophically and much more accurate phenomenologically to dispense with the notion of self-love and instead speak of another concept, another intentional act, such as perhaps self-esteem, self-respect, self-satisfaction, or self-worth? Recent commentators on Kierkegaard’s Works of Love have diligently tried to reduce the ambiguity by posing multiple distinctions. For example, in trying to make sense of Kierkegaard’s ambiguity, M. Jamie Ferreira suggests that proper self-love should be understood in terms of respect, and she writes that “Kierkegaard distinguishes between two forms of self-love: a ‘selfish,’ exclusive love of the self, which is at odds with the good of the other, and a ‘proper,’ inclusive love of the self, which both encompasses the good of the other and is the measure of the good of the other.” 76 Krishek, on the other hand, thinks Ferreira’s twofold distinction does not go far enough and instead argues that there are three distinct kinds of self-love: “selfish self-love, proper qualified self-love, and proper unqualified self-love.” 77 Does multiplying the senses of self-love cast light on the concept and bring it into sharp relief? Let us suppose for a moment that there is such a thing as proper self-love. What is it and how does one love oneself in the right way? According to Kierkegaard, self-love corresponds perfectly with the love of the neighbor, as he writes that “fundamentally they are one and the same thing.” 78 Kierkegaard actually does little to explain “proper selflove,” and we do well to note that his primarily negative discussion of the notion of self-love occurs as a kind of preamble to the central theme of the chapter which is to understand the meaning of “you shall love.” 79 At best, Kierkegaard offers examples of persons who do not love themselves in the right way, such as the bustler, the light-minded person, the depressed person, and the suicidal person, 80 and in some commentaries we find rather general descriptions such as “acting to fulfill one’s well-being,” 81 an interpretation that may seemingly bring Kierkegaard even closer to Spinoza and his conatus theory, which many take to be a kind of metaphysical egoism. 82 What, we may ask, counts as deeds of self-love that fulfill one’s well-being? Would


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acts such as exercising, flossing, studying, and writing self-affirmative postit notes to oneself (something bell hooks suggests one should do in All about Love 83) fit the bill—or better yet, writing a book on Kierkegaard and love? If I am actually doing things that I want to do is that self-love? Do I actually experience love in performing any of these acts? And is it not entirely possible that a work of love may require that I actually forgo acting to fulfill my own well-being in order to help another person? Of course, it will be much easier to justify acts of the former sort rather than those of the latter, thus leading down a path of egoism that self-love cannot ever entirely avoid. Consequently, we must take Kierkegaard to task, for however profound we find his interpretation of neighborly love, his conception of self-love, if he is in fact trying to develop one, remains obscure. MARION AND THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF SELF-LOVE When considered phenomenologically, which is arguably the most useful method in studying the concept of love, we must ask whether there is any intuition or evidence that can be accessed to make manifest the experience of self-love as an experience of love comparable to the experience of love for another person. Jean-Luc Marion provides additional support for this position in The Erotic Phenomenon, which is the most comprehensive and indispensable phenomenological investigation of love to date. The concept of love, Marion suggests, is to be accessed through the erotic reduction, which he initially invokes through the question “Does anyone love me?” 84 In his second “meditation”—for this work is modeled on Descartes’s Meditations in First Philosophy and thus affirms the phenomenology of love as first philosophy—titled “Concerning Every Man for Himself, and His Self-Hatred,” Marion persuasively demonstrates the impossibility of self-love. He proceeds by providing a reductio: let me assume that I can love myself and assure myself that I do indeed love myself—which notably is the ideal wisdom sought by philosophers and popular wisdom as well. “Who can say with meaning and conscience, ‘I love myself’?” 85 What would this mean? How about the past and future expressions “I loved myself,” or “I will love myself”? How can my love of myself be performed? How can it be verified? In short, Marion reasons, it cannot, but he nevertheless seeks to examine the “fragile evidence that the love of self presupposes.” 86 First, in order to demonstrate that I can love myself, we would have to presuppose the possibility of being split or doubled, and it is such a metaphysical presupposition that allows Aristotle to explain self-love. But if “we are concerned with only one I, how can it detach itself in order to assure this I from the outside, which must then become an other than itself?” 87 And if I am different I’s (does it even make sense to speak this way?), then “how

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could this other I assure me that it is indeed me that it loves, since by hypothesis, it will appear as foreign, as a non-I?” 88 Thus, the possibility of the split is absurd, and Marion explains three reasons for this absurdity. First, I cannot precede myself, which would be necessary to love myself with an originary love as my parents love me. Second, I cannot exceed myself, which would be necessary in order to overcome my vanity and become completely convinced that I am loved by me. And third, I cannot cross the distance required by loving. Marion writes: In short, in thought, I can dig out a gap within myself, and fill it in just as easily. But, in front of the question “Does anyone out there love me?” the concern is not that I (as transcendental I) think of myself (as empirical me); the concern is loving myself. Loving requires an exteriority that is not provisional but effective, an exteriority that remains for long enough that one may cross it seriously. Loving requires distance and the crossing of distance. 89

Thus, Marion concludes this section unequivocally: “unable to precede myself, to exceed myself, or to cross the distance, I can neither think nor perform the formula ‘I love myself.’” 90 This, then, should be the end of the matter, and as philosophers seeking both the clarity of wisdom and the wisdom of love we ought now to conclude that self-love is a pseudo-concept and work to remove it from our lexicon. We should recognize that the question “How Do I Love Me?” is as badly posed as it is awkward. Kierkegaard, I think, would be able to accept this, for after all it is the concept of selfrenunciation rather than so-called “proper self-love” that dominates the reflection on love in Works of Love, and as we have seen in the analysis of love’s intentionality, the gaze of love fundamentally turns away from oneself and thus is capable of hiding a multitude of sins. Be this as it may, Marion may be read perhaps as both working to improve our lexicon, while also provoking once again the question and the ambiguity of self-love. For in section 41 of The Erotic Phenomenon, the second to last and shortest section of the book, he returns to consider the possibility of self-love. This section is entitled “Even Oneself,” and here Marion argues that when I discover myself loved first by the other, that I may then learn to love even myself—“the one who is most difficult to love.” 91 This section, I suggest, fits uneasily within Marion’s text. Here Marion writes: “The other thus precedes me in the role of the lover, which she assumes first, contrary to what I have claimed up to this point.” 92 How are we to take this statement which undermines the path of argumentation taken throughout the text? Are we to find in this reaffirmation of the love of self a parallel to Descartes’s ultimate overturning of his methodical hypotheses in his reaffirmation of God, who is after all not an Evil Genius, or his reaffirmation of the physical world, which is after all not a dream? Granted, it will be possible to understand myself as lovable by understanding that another loves


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me, but does this understanding amount to an experience of self-love? Why keep the concept of self-love at all? What do we gain by doing so? Are we any closer to understanding an answer to the question: How do I love me? While the overwhelming force of the writings of both Kierkegaard and Marion lead away from self-love, there nevertheless appears to be a tension between the phenomenology of love and the attempt to found and love the self. One thing should be clear, however, from within the erotic reduction, who one is is either a derivative question—and to seek an answer one would have to analyze the “essentially indescribable” love expressed in the gaze toward the transcendent other, and thus again ultimately find that “the aporia of the self . . . never disappears” 93—or, it is a question that never even arises. FRANKFURT ON SELF-LOVE Let us now consider the influential recent work by Harry Frankfurt, who in The Reasons of Love not only offers a defense of self-love, but he also argues that self-love is the purest form of love. Given the seemingly insurmountable difficulty in providing a phenomenological account of self-love as an experience, can we gain any greater insight into this concept through Frankfurt’s work? Unfortunately not, or at least this is what I shall suggest. In general, Frankfurt provides an interesting and methodical, if not somewhat peculiar, analysis of self-love, but at the end of the day this account provides little to advance a serious conception of self-love with practical import. As we shall see, Frankfurt appears to acknowledge as much toward the end of his work. Much recent attention has been given to this account, which nevertheless raises important insights relevant to our consideration of the question of selflove, so let us look at some of the details. The third and final part of The Reasons of Love is entitled “The Dear Self” after a quotation from Immanuel Kant which suggests that all of our actions may be tainted by selfishness. Thus Frankfurt operates within a context that views self-love as pervasive (or natural) and malignant, and this may explain why he seems determined to provide a positive account of an alternative conception, one in which self-love is considered to be the purest expression of love there is. Frankfurt begins by considering Kantian moral philosophy, which takes “self-love” or the acting out of one’s own personal desires and inclinations as contrary to acting in a way that is morally worthy. Consider now the quotation from Kant’s Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals:

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Out of love of humanity I am willing to admit that most of our actions are in accordance with duty; but, if we look closer at our thoughts and aspirations, we everywhere come upon the dear self, which is always salient, and it is this instead of the stern command of duty (which would often require self-denial) which supports our plans. 94

Now, while it may not seem unreasonable to equate “the dear self” with “self-love,” it is important to note that Kant does not directly refer to “selflove” as the subject of his concern here, and one could perhaps just as reasonably interpret “the dear self” as an expression of self-regard, which would not meet the immediacy, intentionality, and eternity required for selflove. Of course, the question remains as to whether we can grasp a serious conception of self-love. Be this as it may, Frankfurt regards what Kant “says about the self . . . as significantly out of focus,” 95 and his goal is thus to reevaluate the significance of self-love. Frankfurt asks, “Why should we think of self-love as being at all an impediment to the sort of life at which we ought reasonably to aim?” 96 Thus far readers are not given a specific definition of the concept of self-love, and it seems very much like what Frankfurt is alluding to could be more appropriately understood as “self-regard” or caring for one’s self by acting in a way that promotes the growth and preservation of the self (e.g., eating well, exercising, developing one’s mind, etc.). Work still needs to be done to provide a self-evident conception of self-love that would consider the experience (i.e., an act) saturated with the emotion that all would recognize as love. Frankfurt then contrasts the Kantian perspective with the biblical one, explaining that the injunction to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves . . . does not sound like a warning against self-love.” 97 Contra Kierkegaard, this commandment, Frankfurt claims, can be read as “a positive recommendation of self-love,” although he does entertain the possibility of an alternative reading, but leaves the matter undecided. According to Frankfurt, self-love, like all varieties of love, has four essential features. It involves (1) “a disinterested concern for the well-being or flourishing of the person who is loved,” (2) personal attention to the beloved, (3) identification with the beloved, and (4) an involuntary response to the beloved. 98 Based on these characteristics, Frankfurt puts forth his central thesis that self-love “is in a certain way the purest of all modes of love” 99 and then proceeds to attempt to demonstrate the truth of this thesis. Of these characteristics, it is the fourth one that leaps out as most contrary to a Kierkegaardian and phenomenological account of love, for this account emphasizes the willful act of love, although clearly embedded within the immediacy of the encounter with the other. But perhaps the most problematic feature of this account for the conceptualization of self-love is the claim to disinterested-


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ness. Considered in relation to love of an other, this feature is crucial—I should not consider my own interests, but solely that of the other’s in acting for his or her best. This is as much as saying that a defining feature of love is that it is selfless, a point recognized by Frankfurt, although oddly he flirts with the idea that “self-love may be selfless.” 100 He avoids this obvious absurdity by explaining: “It is entirely apposite, however, to characterize [self-love] as disinterested. Indeed, self-love is nearly always entirely disinterested, in the clear and literal sense of being motivated by no interests other than those of the beloved.” 101 How can this explanation have any weight when there is no distinction between the lover and the beloved? How can the lover be said to be disinterested when he or she is motivated solely by the interests of the beloved, and in this case the interests of the beloved are actually the interests of the lover? For the characteristic of being disinterested only makes sense within a context in which one can separate what is good for another from what is good for oneself. Only in this regard can we speak of viewing the beloved as an end and not merely a means toward some ulterior purpose of the lover. This consideration must ultimately be seen as posing a serious problem for Frankfurt’s view of self-love that undermines its persuasiveness. Frankfurt then makes an interesting comparison between self-love and parental love, but given the criticism above, this analysis does more to illuminate the purity of parental love than self-love. Parental love, Frankfurt writes, is “exclusively non-instrumental,” 102 whereas the love of those others who are not one’s own children “is nearly always mixed up with, if not actually grounded in, a hope to be loved in return or to acquire certain other goods that are distinct from the well-being of the beloved.” 103 What Frankfurt is actually claiming here is that the love of others is grounded in reciprocity, a view that stands in stark contrast to the phenomenological conception of love found in Kierkegaard and Marion. Thus if we take the latter view seriously, we must dismiss the former view as a description occurring within the natural attitude. When Frankfurt turns to elucidate the particular nature of self-love it becomes clear that his understanding of self-love does not involve a love in which one’s self is the object of the love. Instead, he writes: “a person’s selflove is simply, at its core, a disinterested concern for whatever it is that the person loves. The most perspicuous characterization of the essential nature of self-love is simply that someone who loves himself displays and demonstrates that love just by loving what he loves.” 104 This characterization ultimately entails that self-love is “never primary” and at best “necessarily derivative from, or constructed out of, the love that people have for things that are not identical with themselves.” 105 “A person cannot love himself except insofar as he loves other things,” 106 Frankfurt writes, and this leads him to suggest that the conception of self-love collapses into a notion “so barren as

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to be useless.” 107 Surprisingly, however, this suggestion does not lead him to abandon self-love, but rather to define it further as the rudimentary “desire of a person to love.” 108 The matter does not stop here. Self-love is next said to consist in wholeheartedness: “To be wholehearted is to love oneself. The two are the same.” 109 Here Frankfurt refers to Kierkegaard’s view that “purity of the heart is to will one thing,” 110 thus providing a nice opening for a comparison, but nothing that he writes suggests a careful consideration of Kierkegaard’s discourse, so we can postpone a reflection on its contents for now. We find that this is not the end of the matter, however, for self-love is then defined as self-satisfaction: “Loving ourselves . . . is the same thing, more or less, as being satisfied with ourselves.” 111 Now, we have every right to question the equivalence of self-love and self-satisfaction, perhaps more frequently referred to as self-esteem in psychological literature. But even if we were to accept the equivalence, which I do not think we should, Frankfurt in effect undermines this notion as well by suggesting that it may not ultimately be possible to be contented or satisfied with oneself—in which case it helps to have a good sense of humor. What are we to make of this overall discussion? To hold that this reflection is unproblematic would be irresponsible, for how are we to take the claim that self-love is the purest form of love together with a series of explanations attempting to clarify what self-love actually is that involves, more or less, half a dozen different identifications? For as readers we find that Frankfurt’s conception shifts from a Kantian view of acting out of personal inclinations, to a disinterested concern, to a rudimentary desire, to being wholehearted, to self-satisfaction, and ultimately to the purest form of love. Although there are many noteworthy insights along the way, do we not have every reason to be baffled by this account, and does not this meandering series of reflections on self-love add more weight to the view that the pursuit of self-love is misguided? Consequently, Frankfurt never offers readers a robust explanation of selflove as a love of the self, although he does provide a rather precise definition. But the view he puts forward does not capture the attitude and emotional component of an experience differentiated from the love of an other. It seems to me that what Frankfurt discusses could be more easily understood as “selfregard” or “self-contentment,” which is surely different from what we would consider to be an experience of self-love that shares the same phenomenological structures as the love of the beloved or neighbor. If this is seen as a rather nit-picking argument about the meanings of words, then we could say that Frankfurt signals a similarly-styled argument, when he explains that what Kant is criticizing is really not self-love but rather self-indulgence, which “is something else entirely” and involves a fundamentally different attitude. 112 While it is interesting that Frankfurt uses Kant’s view to motivate an inquiry


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into self-love and then claims that Kant is not really discussing self-love at all, he is nevertheless right that we must consider the attitude of love, by which I understand the experiential dimension of the person, in trying to understand self-love. So, this is not merely a matter of language, for what needs to be established first of all is the possibility of self-love as an experience grasped through the erotic reduction. Unfortunately, such a possibility never emerges. Clearly, our discussion thus far has shown that there are multiple ways in which self-love can be conceived, but in this chapter I have been attempting to determine whether a sound phenomenological understanding of self-love is possible. Such an understanding has not emerged, but it would perhaps be going too far to claim that all conceptions of self-love are mistaken. After all, Frankfurt, Lippitt, and supposedly Kierkegaard find something of value in the notion. So then the question becomes whether any of these notions are compelling enough to be accepted in the absence of phenomenological confirmation and without any clear response to the problems posed by Marion’s argument against self-love. I, for my part, cannot find any of these conceptions compelling. Frankfurt’s reflections, while thoughtfully developed, when broken down raise more issues than they resolve, and the language he uses also suggests, more or less, that true self-love may not be possible. The relationship between Frankfurt’s and Kierkegaard’s view of self-love has recently been addressed by Pia Søltoft, who insightfully shows the difference between the two views by focusing on “the transparency of selflove.” 113 As Søltoft explains, Frankfurt’s “qualification of self-love as pure must in no way be understood as a moral qualification,” 114 but rather the form of love that “has the highest degree of transparency” 115 in light of Frankfurt’s four criteria of love. Kierkegaard’s view, in contrast, is “diametrically opposed [ . . . ] to the transparency of self-love” and the conception of “self-love as identical with being satisfied with oneself.” 116 Søltoft writes: “For Kierkegaard, self-love is murky, and this opacity covers up the fact that, more often than not, self-love is built upon a self-dissatisfaction, which is why the self is loved in a distorted, a despairing, a double-minded way.” 117 Contrary to Frankfurt’s understanding of self-love, which is “remarkably empty” and “devoid of content,” 118 Kierkegaard presents his readers with a complex analysis of six negative forms that self-love takes. 119 Søltoft focuses her argument on what is referred to as “negative self-love” and “selfish selflove,” a focus which in itself suggests that Kierkegaard’s consideration of self-love is much more negative than positive, although the possibility of a positive form is not thereby necessarily excluded. But is a “non-self-ish selflove” possible? And if so, should this relation really be called “self-love,” or do we by doing so degrade the relation know as “love”?

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On the whole, as we have seen, Kierkegaard’s view appears to be more of an argument against self-love than for it, although it must be granted that there is a certain ambiguity and tension to be found in Works of Love. What if we wish to take this tension as a sign of the possibility of a positive conception of self-love? What would this amount to? Perhaps then we may want to say that loving oneself involves steadfastly performing one’s task to love others. It is an expression of love’s integrity. But this seems really to be stating that loving oneself is to love others without fail. On the other hand, when we succeed in loving others and recognize in them their love of ourselves, then we may take on their perspectives to understand what it is to love ourselves. For this we shall be eternally grateful, but it is nevertheless a derivative conception of loving that is experienced differently from the primary experience of loving others. How do we save Kierkegaard and the author of the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself from a faulty position of maintaining the possibility of genuine self-love, which, given the forgoing analysis, seems at best highly improbable? Although Søltoft does not focus her attention on an elaboration of positive self-love, the analysis toward the end of her paper provides some suggestive ideas. The “authentic self, the self that one shall love because it has been bestowed upon one” is ultimately God, for God is love and thus as Kierkegaard clearly presupposes the source of all love 120 and the indwelling foundation of every person. So, if we must persist in seeking out a true understanding of self-love that is non-self-ish, then it would have to amount to this: self-love is the love of the love within oneself, which is implanted by God, so true self-love is ultimately the love of God within oneself. Self-love is the love of God. Now, for Kierkegaard, this self-love should be transparent, for as he writes in The Sickness unto Death: “The formula that describes the state of the self when despair is completely rooted out is this: in relating itself to itself and in willing to be itself, the self rests transparently in the power that established it.” 121 Now, given that the source of this power is experienced as sourcelessness, the sourcelessness that has established the relationality allowing love to manifest itself, the transparency that is sought will forever be subject to a murky ambiguity. Be this as it may, if we were to accept Frankfurt’s definition of the concept of self-love, 122 would it result in an understanding that can be practically implemented in our lives? Surprisingly, it turns out that after all his considerations Frankfurt appears to answer this question negatively, which doubtless leaves his readers quite puzzled, as he ends his text by writing: “if true self-love is, for you, really out of the question—at least be sure to hang on to your sense of humor.” 123 Thus, here again, we find the end result of an investigation into self-love leads to aporia and perhaps ultimately a falling away from love.


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ONE LAST APPEAL Not until the recent publication of John Lippitt’s Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love (2013) has the question of self-love become a prominent area of focus within Kierkegaard Studies. Lippitt provides a well-argued and at points controversial attempt to advance an understanding of proper selflove, something that Kierkegaard himself fails to do, and thus while Lippitt’s position is seen to be inspired by Kierkegaard, it is not claimed to be Kierkegaard’s own. 124 Thus Lippitt develops an account in which trust, hope, and self-forgiveness fill out our conception of self-love, while problematizing Kierkegaard’s prominent focus on self-denial and also including “a certain kind of pride” (although this last virtue is seen as non-essential to his account). 125 It is also worth adding that Lippitt objects to several points in Frankfurt’s account of self-love, and in general Lippitt argues that Frankfurt’s view lacks that kind of purity that it defends. 126 Although it is recognized from the start that self-love is notoriously problematic, it is nevertheless the case that the possibility of self-love is presupposed in Lippitt’s work, for the introductory chapter is entitled “How should I love myself?” and not, for example, “Can I love myself?” Thus, Lippitt, like Frankfurt, does not engage with the phenomenological problem as it has been developed here, as there is no reflection on how one could ground one’s love of oneself by oneself. While it may be fair to assume, as Lippitt does, “that we do have a sense of what the self is,” 127 to fail to engage with the phenomenological critique of self-love that Marion develops exposes a significant gap in this work. We see, then, that not only is a sense of self assumed, but the relation of self-love is also simply presupposed to be possible, and we can cite Johannes Climacus, as Lippitt does, to further identify this presupposition: “Self-love is the ground or goes to the ground in all love, which is why any religion of love we might conceive would presuppose, just as epigrammatically as truly, one condition only and assume it as given: to love oneself in order to command loving the neighbor as oneself.” 128 Here in Philosophical Fragments, Climacus—the Kierkegaardian pseudonym perhaps most fixed on the question of becoming a self 129 —identifies the central theme of the later Works of Love, but it is significant that nowhere in this later, more focused series of discourses on love does Kierkegaard argue for the idea that “self-love is the ground . . . in all love.” Instead, this Climacian expression appears quite foreign to the context woven in Works of Love. In this later work Kierkegaard still talks about a central presupposition and about the grounding force of love, but the problematic notion of the “self” is dropped. “Love,” alone, “is the ground of everything.” 130 Self-love could not possibly be the ground, because it would mean that the individual self is able to and responsible for putting love within him- or herself. Kierkegaard clearly rejects this possibility, as he writes that “No human being can bestow the

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ground of love in another person’s heart,” 131 so surely one cannot bestow the ground of love within oneself either. In order for self-love to be possible, it would have to be an exclusive characteristic that one has for oneself. This possibility is, however, clearly rejected by Kierkegaard: Love is not a being-for-itself quality but a quality by which or in which you are for others. In summing up a person’s qualities, we do in fact say in everyday speech that he is wise, sensible, loving—and we do not notice what a difference there is between the last quality and the first ones. His wisdom, his experience, and his sensibleness he has for himself, even though he benefits others with them; but if he is truly loving, then he does not have love in the same sense as he has wisdom, but his love consists precisely in this, to presuppose that the rest of us have love . . . . If it actually were the case that a person could be loving but this love did not signify the presupposing of love in others, then in the deepest sense you would not feel built up, however trustworthy it was that he was loving. 132

Not only does Kierkegaard very clearly indicate here that love is essentially directed toward others, but his language also suggests phenomenological insight into the impossibility of self-love in the strict sense. What a difference there is between being loving and possessing other qualities. Love is only possible as a relation to another, a relation which will involve the kind of immediacy and intentionality that we have already established. One cannot love oneself in the same sense as one loves others, because in the deepest sense the relationality is different, and what a difference it is. Kierkegaard’s continued reflections suggest, as Marion has demonstrated, that one will always have doubts about oneself and whether there is love in oneself. “Even when you doubt yourself, doubt that there is love in you,” Kierkegaard writes, it is through the “trustworthiness of the one who loves” by presupposing love in you that you may be built up. 133 Thus, the only possible ground of loving oneself is through a relationship to another, and this is to say, again, that self-love cannot ground itself—is it really proper to refer to it as “self-love” then—and is at best a derivative phenomenon. In general, it seems fair to claim that Lippitt’s positive account of selflove is largely psychological and thus does not engage the phenomenological problem that has been central to this work. The discussions of trust and hope in Lippitt’s work are important, and while they entail conceptions of selfconfidence and self-respect, it still remains questionable whether a robust conception of self-love is possible. Further, self-forgiveness is also valuable, but as has been shown above, within Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of love forgiveness must also be understood as a derivative phenomenon, and thus self-forgiveness could be seen as doubly derivative. As with Frankfurt’s conception, the question is whether we wish to view Lippitt’s conception as accurately referring to a phenomenon of self-love. This is not a straw man


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argument in either case, as the basic point I wish to emphasize is one that I think can and should be intersubjectively corroborated, 134 namely that there is a vast experiential difference—what a difference—between loving others and “loving” oneself. Even presupposing that I am loving and trusting in my ability to love, which are surely good things to do, cannot capture the force of loving others or even what we would want to intend by a concept of “selflove.” With all this being said, I suppose it will nevertheless always be possible to argue for a kind of proper self-love, understood in a certain sense, but philosophically such an account will likely never be fully self-satisfying. Strictly taken, then, self-love is a misnomer and should ultimately be understood as referring to a different experiential state than love. Self-contentment, self-esteem, and self-respect seem likely candidates for a sharp distinction and demarcation of the concept of love, but even these experiences, which do revolve around a perception of oneself, are arguably less useful than a certain sound-mindedness. 135 What, then, do we make of Kierkegaard’s account? Kierkegaard scholars, including Lippitt, acknowledge that Kierkegaard is overwhelmingly negative about the concept of self-love, and I would suggest that this negative view reflects his phenomenological understanding. Why does he not then reject the concept altogether, instead of later positing the ambiguous possibility of proper self-love? The reason that Kierkegaard does not give up the concept completely could be a scriptural one, for he “recognises a proper self-love as valorised in the second love commandment.” 136 Of course, a theological investigation into a scriptural defense lies outside of this project, and we can cite Nygren as problematizing any such defense, as he writes: “Christianity does not recognize self-love as a legitimate form of love.” 137 Be this as it may, in my view a significant and suggestive point in Lippitt’s account—one that Søltoft also expresses—is understanding the role of God as central to a conception of self-love. 138 If it is possible to presuppose love in others, then it is also possible to presuppose love in myself, but this involves recognizing a mysterious ground of love that is not identical with the self I take myself to be. Ultimately, for Kierkegaard this involves acknowledging God as the sourceless source of love, and thus when Kierkegaard claims that “to love God is to love oneself truly” and “to love God is true self-love,” 139 he decisively moves away from a conception of “self-love” in any recognizable, straightforward sense. Instead, Kierkegaard leads us to consider another possible love-relation, namely the love of God. Will our attempt to understand the love of God prove more successful than our failed attempt to understand self-love? How does Kierkegaard understand the love of God and can this form of love be accounted for within a phenomenology of love?

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NOTES 1. Diotima’s words to Socrates in Plato’s Symposium, 204b-204c. Quoted from Reeve’s Plato in Love, 64. 2. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 156. 3. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1962), 68. 4. Although there is much to say about the views of each of these thinkers and certain qualifications should be made, it is fair to say that all of these four thinkers hold a common negative view of love as illusory. This negative view is prominent throughout Singer’s discussion of each thinker in his Philosophy of Love. Schopenhauer’s view of love is perhaps the most nuanced. For while he clearly views love between the sexes as illusory, and thus negatively, he has more positive things to say about companionate love. See Arthur Schopenhauer, “The Metaphysics of Sexual Love,” in The World as Will and Representation, vol. 2, translated by David Carus and Richard E. Aquila (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2011), 620-623. More importantly for the ethics of love, however, is Schopenhauer’s understanding that compassion is central to morality and the basis of the virtue of loving-kindness, and it manifests itself as a common phenomenon in which one participates in the suffering of the other and wills his or her well-being. Schopenhauer also understands there to be a continuity of life, and thus he extends this compassionate concern to non-human animals. See Arthur Schopenhauer, “On the Basis of Morals,” in The Two Fundamental Problems of Ethics, translated by David E. Cartwright and Edward E. Erdmann (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010), 212-213. 5. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1962), 201. 6. See the “Definitions of the Emotions” at the end of part 3 of the Ethics. As I have argued elsewhere, Spinoza’s philosophy of love can be understood as expressing erotic perfectionism. See my “Erotic Perfectionism in Jewish Rationalist Philosophy,” Soundings: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Humanities 96:2 (2013): 189-213. Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love can also be seen to embrace a perfectionist ethic. This is not only suggested by the upward movement edification involves in which “the more perfect the loving one presupposes the love to be, the more perfect a love he loves forth” (Works of Love, 219), but also in the following passage: With regard to love, we continually speak, again and again, about the perfect person; with regard to love, Christianity, too, continually speaks, again and again, about the perfect person—alas, but we human beings speak about finding the perfect person in order to love him, whereas Christianity speaks about being the perfect person who boundlessly loves the person he sees. (Works of Love, 173-174) 7. John Lippitt, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 6. 8. Lippitt accepts that “a considerable majority” of Kierkegaard’s references to self-love “construe it in negative terms.” Lippitt, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love, 8. 9. See Heidegger, Being and Time, 62. 10. Parts of the following discussion were first published in Michael Strawser, “Kierkegaard and the Phenomenology of Selfhood,” International Philosophical Quarterly 54.1 (March 2014): 59-74. 11. Dan Zahavi, Subjectivity and Selfhood: Investigating the First-Person Perspective (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2005). 12. Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi, The Phenomenological Mind: An Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science (London, UK: Routledge, 2008). 13. Zahavi, Subjectivity and Selfhood, 1. 14. Zahavi, Subjectivity and Selfhood, 2. 15. Zahavi, Subjectivity and Selfhood, 13. 16. Zahavi, Subjectivity and Selfhood, 11; Gallagher and Zahavi, The Phenomenological Mind, 45-46.


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17. Patrick Stokes, Kierkegaard’s Mirrors: Interest, Self and Moral Vision (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 55. 18. Zahavi, Subjectivity and Selfhood, 33. 19. Jean-Paul Sartre, The Transcendence of the Ego, translated by Forrest Williams and Robert Kirkpatrick (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1960), 32. 20. Zahavi, Subjectivity and Selfhood, 44-47; Gallagher and Zahavi, The Phenomenological Mind, 115-116. 21. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, translated by Hazel Barnes (New York, NY: Philosophical Library, 1956), 76; Zahavi, Subjectivity and Selfhood, 113. 22. Stephen Priest, The Subject in Question: Sartre’s Critique of Husserl in The Transcendence of the Ego (London, UK: Routledge, 2000), 55. 23. Priest, The Subject in Question, 40. 24. Priest, The Subject in Question, 45. 25. Priest, The Subject in Question, 46-47. 26. Einar Øverenget, Seeing the Self: Heidegger on Subjectivity (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1998), 159. 27. Mark Okrent, Heidegger’s Pragmatism: Understanding, Being, and the Critique of Metaphysics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988). 28. Øverenget, Seeing the Self, 140. 29. Michel Haar, “The Question of Human Freedom in Later Heidegger,” The Southern Journal of Philosophy 28 (1989): 13. 30. Haar, “The Question of Human Freedom in Later Heidegger,” 12. 31. Haar, “The Question of Human Freedom in Later Heidegger,” 12. 32. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, translated by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall (London, UK: Continuum, 1989), 278. 33. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, translated by Colin Smith (London, UK: Routledge, 1962), 77. 34. Paul Ricouer, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation, translated by D. Savage (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970), 43. 35. Jacques Derrida, Speech and Phenomena and Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs, translated by David B. Allison (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973), 146-147. 36. Gallagher and Zahavi, The Phenomenological Mind, 45-46. 37. Gallagher and Zahavi, The Phenomenological Mind, 47. 38. Zahavi, Subjectivity and Selfhood, 15. 39. Zahavi, Subjectivity and Selfhood, 24. 40. Zahavi, Subjectivity and Selfhood, 24. 41. Gallagher and Zahavi, The Phenomenological Mind, 46. 42. Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am, translated by David Wills (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2008), 160. 43. Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am, 160. 44. Franz Brentano, Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, 2nd ed, translated by A. C. Rancurello, D. B. Terrell, and L. L. McAlister (London, UK: Routledge, 1995), 276. 45. Øverenget, Seeing the Self, 145. 46. Priest, The Subject in Question, 48. 47. Loosely paraphrased from a related point made by Daniel Dennett in Freedom Evolves (New York, NY: Viking, 2003), 242, n. 3, where he accuses Gallagher of “Cartesian thinking.” Gallagher has repudiated this charge in “Consciousness and Free Will,” Danish Yearbook of Philosophy 39 (2004): 13. 48. Zahavi, Subjectivity and Selfhood, 26. 49. Zahavi, Subjectivity and Selfhood, 146. This now common distinction was first made by Aron Gurwitsch in “A Non-Egological Conception of Consciousness,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 1 (1941): 325-338. 50. I am here influenced by the way Max Scheler attempts to avoid the psychic-physical distinction by maintaining that “both act and person are psychophysically indifferent” and that “we are not at all troubled by the old Cartesian alternative, which requires that everything be

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either psychic or physical” (Scheler, Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values, 388). In a similar vein, I am trying to suggest that we do not have to succumb to the binary distinction between self or no self. We can instead remain open. 51. Gallagher and Zahavi, The Phenomenological Mind, 8. 52. Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, edited by Victoria Neufeldt and David B. Guralnik (New York, NY: Webster’s New World, 1988), 1217. 53. Cf. Mark C. Taylor, Journeys to Selfhood: Hegel and Kierkegaard (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1980), and Merold Westphal, Becoming a Self: A Reading of Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1996). 54. Pattison, “Foreword” to Works of Love, ix. 55. Søren Kierkegaard, Johannes Climacus, Kierkegaard’s Writings VII, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985), 167. 56. This was seen above in the reflections on love hiding a multitude of sins and the woman who was a sinner, and it is important to keep in mind what it means to be “under erasure” as developed by Heidegger and Derrida. 57. Aristotle, The Eudemian Ethics, translated by Anthony Kenny (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011) 125 (1240a). 58. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 17. 59. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 18. 60. Krishek, Kierkegaard on Faith and Love, 116. See below. 61. Lippitt, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love, 12. 62. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 96. 63. Whitney Houston, “The Greatest Love of All,” written by Michael Masser (music) and Linda Creed (lyrics), Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, 1985. 64. Ovid, Metamorphoses, translated by Horace Gregory (New York, NY: The Viking Press, 1958), 74. 65. Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, 238 (1169b). 66. See Anthony Kenny, “Introduction,” Aristotle, The Eudemian Ethics, esp. x-xii. 67. Aristotle, The Eudemian Ethics, 125 (1240a). 68. See Strawser, Both/And: Reading Kierkegaard from Irony to Edification, especially chapter 8, “The ‘Indirectness’ of the Signed Writings,” 173-197. 69. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 3. 70. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 4. 71. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1962), 25.This same passage appears as an incomplete sentence on page 7 of the 1990 translation. 72. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 13-14. 73. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 17. 74. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 17. 75. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 18. 76. Ferreira, Love’s Grateful Striving, 35. 77. Krishek, Kierkegaard on Faith and Love, 116. 78. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 22. 79. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 24. 80. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 23. For a detailed discussion of Kierkegaard’s negative forms of self-love see Pia Søltoft, “The Transparency of Self-Love?: Kierkegaard vs. Frankfurt,” MLN, vol. 128, no. 5 (2013): 1115-1131. 81. Krishek, Kierkegaard on Faith and Love, 116. 82. On this point consider that Kierkegaard writes: “You shall preserve love, and you shall preserve yourself and by and in preserving yourself preserve love” (Works of Love, 43). Nevertheless, it is important to note that the philosophy of love in Spinoza that has been sketched above suggests that it is misguided to consider Spinoza as an egoist, and both he and Kierkegaard can be seen to agree that the “true self” is not the ego.


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83. bell hooks, All about Love, chapter 4, “Commitment: Let Love Be Love in Me.” According to hooks, “self-love is the foundation of our loving practice,” (67) but what she really seems to be discussing throughout this chapter is self-esteem. 84. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, §8. 85. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 44. 86. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 44. 87. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 44-45. 88. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 45. 89. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 46. 90. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 47. 91. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 213. 92. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 214. 93. Jean-Luc Marion, In the Self’s Place: The Approach of St. Augustine, translated by Jeffrey L. Kosky (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), 288. 94. Quoted in Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 75, from Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason and Other Writings in Moral Philosophy, translated by Lewis White Beck (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1949). This passage is found at the beginning of the second section of Kant’s Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), and the italics are Frankfurt’s. 95. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 76. 96. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 77. 97. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 77. 98. Here is the complete passage: First, it consists most basically in a disinterested concern for the well-being or flourishing of the person who is loved. It is not driven by any ulterior purpose but seeks the good of the beloved as something that is desired for its own sake. Second, love is unlike other modes of disinterested concern for people—such as charity—in that it is ineluctably personal. . . . Third, the lover identifies with his beloved: that is, he takes the interests of his beloved as his own. . . . Finally, loving entails constraints upon the will. It is not simply up to us what we love and what we do not love. Love is not a matter of choice but is determined by conditions that are outside our immediate voluntary control. (Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 79-80) 99. 100. 101. 102. 103. 104. 105. 106. 107. 108. 109. 110. 111. 112. 113. 114. 115. 116. 117. 118. 119. 120.

Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 80. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 82. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 82. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 83. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 83. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 85. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 85. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 86. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 85. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 85. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 95. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 95-96. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 97. My italics. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 78. Søltoft, “The Transparency of Self-Love?: Kierkegaard vs. Frankfurt,” 1115-1131. Søltoft, “The Transparency of Self-Love?,” 1119. Søltoft, “The Transparency of Self-Love?,” 1120. Søltoft, “The Transparency of Self-Love?,” 1123. Søltoft, “The Transparency of Self-Love?,” 1124. Søltoft, “The Transparency of Self-Love?,” 1124. See Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 23. See Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 3.

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121. Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death, Kierkegaard’s Writings XIX, translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), 14. 122. Overall Frankfurt’s discussion about self-love might be better classified as about selfesteem or self-contentment, and this is expressed directly in his misleading note on Spinoza, when he writes that “According to Spinoza, self-love, or being satisfied with ourselves ‘is really the highest thing we can hope for.’” In Spinoza the term under discussion is acquiescentia in se ipso, which has been variously translated as self-esteem (Edwin Curley) and selfcontentment (G. H. R. Parkinson and Samuel Shirley), but this is not directly related to Spinoza’s conception of love. See Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 97, as well as my discussion of Spinoza’s conception of love in chapter 1 above. 123. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, 100. 124. Lippitt, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love, 13. 125. Lippitt, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love, 192. 126. See chapter 5, “Another take on self-love: an excursus on Harry Frankfurt,” in Lippitt, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love, 96-109. 127. Lippitt, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love, 6. 128. Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments, 39. 129. Of course, Johannes Climacus’s not so distant cousin Anti-Climacus also has important contributions to the discussion of becoming a self. The pseudonymous editor Viktor Eremita does as well, but as suggested above, within this work we are more concerned with conceiving the possibility of a Viktor Amans over Viktor Eremita. 130. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 224. 131. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 224. This translation has been modified by the previous translation of the Hongs (1962). 132. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 223. My italics. 133. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 224. 134. I thus invite readers to confirm this through their own phenomenological analyses. For, “phenomenologists do not have to do their phenomenological analyses alone. Descriptions allow for intersubjective corroboration. And again, the quest for invariant, essential structures of experience is not narrowly tied to the peculiarities of my own experience.” Gallagher and Zahavi, The Phenomenological Mind, 28. 135. Sôphrosunê, which is literally “sound-mindedness” but often translated as moderation, is the virtue praised by Plato in contrast to self-control. See Plato on Love, 54 and 101. 136. Lippitt, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love, 8. 137. Anders Nygren, Agape and Eros, translated by Philip S. Watson (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1969), 217. 138. This is discussed in chapter 3 in the section “The centrality of God to proper self-love,” in Lippitt, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love, 56-61. 139. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 107. In Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love Lippitt finds these to be “rather gnomic remarks” (45).

Chapter Seven

Love’s Fear

We like to be near someone who loves, because he casts out fear. —Kierkegaard 1 God is incomprehensible, . . . because his love is incomprehensible—incomprehensible, because his love passes all understanding. —Judge William 2 The holy God is gracious and therefore always points away from himself, saying, as it were, “If you wish to love me, love the people you see. Whatever you do for them you do for me.” God is too exalted to be able to accept a person’s love directly. —Kierkegaard 3

ON THE LOVE OF GOD According to Kierkegaard, as we have seen, proper self-love is best understood as identical to the love of God. Thus we must now focus on the questions of how to understand the love of God—both from the human to the divine, and from the divine to the human—and whether the God-relationship and faith can be adequately understood within the context of a phenomenology of love. For, from a phenomenological perspective, it must be admitted at the outset that we cannot understand the love of God and the love of humans in the same way. After all, I never feel God’s “hand” in mine or on my shoulder. It cannot be said that I experience the warmth of divine love in the same way as I experience the warmth of a human hug, and it is precisely these kinds of embodied experiences of others involving the crossing of flesh that ground my understanding of love. So, if it can be understood at all, the 169


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phenomenology of the God relationship must be characterized differently, and I shall endeavor to understand whether Kierkegaard can be interpreted as offering his readers such a description. Our entry point for this investigation into the question of the love of God is the “Conclusion” of Works of Love. Here we find, perhaps oddly, that the love of God is conceptually linked to the fear of God. Thus, this connection leads us to consider the pseudonymous Fear and Trembling and the veronymous late writings, for it is in these texts that the love (fear) of God comes to the fore. Finally, the thorny question of whether Kierkegaard’s The Moment can be understood as following from his philosophy of love will not be avoided. LOVE AND FEARFUL TREMBLING Kierkegaard opens the “Conclusion” of Works of Love with the beautiful words of Apostle John: “Beloved, let us love one another.” 4 He then offers his own equally beautiful words as an explanation for the apostle’s: “The commandment is that you shall love, but oh, if you will understand yourself and life, then it seems that it should not need to be commanded, because to love human beings is the only thing worth living for, and without this love you are not really living.” 5 This is a powerful and fitting conclusion to one of the most profound texts on the philosophy of love. Problematically, however, Kierkegaard does not stop with the apostle’s words, which he quotes again at the end of the second paragraph. Instead, he writes “just one more thing,” which appears without transition at the beginning of the third paragraph, and then he proceeds to spend ten pages intensely elaborating “the Christian like for like,” a discourse which culminates by basically calling readers, would-be lovers, “to have an unforgettable fear and trembling” [have en uforglemmelig Frygt og Bæven] “even though [they rest] in God’s love.” 6 Next, we all know how carefully Kierkegaard chose his pseudonyms and book titles, so although he doesn’t have Johannes de Silentio discourse directly on the nature of fearful trembling in Fear and Trembling [Frygt og Bæven], the inference is clear enough: faith, which is perhaps to be regarded as another expression for the love of God, involves fearful trembling. Now, a problem arises from the odd connection between love and fear and trembling in the conclusion to Works of Love, 7 but a journal entry from 1839 expresses this connection as well, while also providing the biblical reference for the title of de Silentio’s future work: “Fear and trembling (see Philippians 2:12) is not the primus motor in the Christian life, for it is love; but it is what the oscillating balance wheel is to the clock—it is the oscillating balance wheel of the Christian life.” 8 Although the mechanical metaphor for what Kierkegaard regards as the highest human life is curious, we can nevertheless

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understand his point that there is an essential connection between love and fearful trembling. Both parts are needed for the mechanism of a Christian life to work. But is this accurate? I confess that my research into how clocks work (including YouTube videos of oscillating balance wheels in motion) has failed to reveal to me how a life centered on love, a life devoted to loving other beings, has need of fearful trembling to keep it in balance. Rather, it seems that the experience of love is one that is essentially off balance and devoid of fear, such that insofar as one experiences fearful trembling one is not experiencing love. Here we may cite another metaphorical expression—it seems Kierkegaard is right that we can only speak metaphorically when describing the spiritual life of love 9—for the phenomenon of love. In a significant section of The Erotic Phenomenon where Marion describes the all-important advance that initiates the erotic reduction he writes: “the reduction starts off in an advance that is definitive and without return, an advance that will never cancel itself out, and never catch up with itself; I start off out of balance and I only avoid the fall by lengthening my stride, by going faster, in other words by adding to my lack of balance.” 10 Nowhere in Marion’s thoroughgoing phenomenological analysis of love is there any intimation that from within the erotic reduction we find fear to be connected to love. As I have argued above, Kierkegaard’s writings present readers with a phenomenology of love and he clearly exhibits an erotic reduction in his approach to the phenomenon of love in Works of Love, as well as his earliest Edifying Discourses on “love hides a multitude of sins.” And yet, we find fear appearing in the conclusion of both series of Works of Love. What is going on here? How are we to understand this? Why does Kierkegaard dramatically shift the tone and emphasis to end his text with what seems like an ultimatum, if not a threat? What are we to make of this so-called “Christian like for like,” which Kierkegaard finds expressed in Jesus’s words “Be it done for you as you have believed,” 11 and which is also reflected in the call to forgive, or you won’t be forgiven, and judge not, or you will be judged? With regard to love, the implication is clear: love others or you won’t be loved. For Kierkegaard this rigorous like for like is a “decisive Christian specification,” but does it not resonate well with the Eastern religious idea of karma? Is this not the same idea expressed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who had doubtfully read Kierkegaard’s Works of Love at the time they composed “The End”: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”? 12 Further, does it not suggest that readers, and perhaps also God, are bound by “the yoke of reciprocity,” 13 which is to say a calculated, mechanical relation of economic exchange? As seen above, Kierkegaard’s analysis of love [Kjerlighed] in Works of Love repeatedly revokes reciprocity and must be interpreted as agreeing with Marion’s view that “reciprocity has nothing to do with love.” 14 Thus, “it is necessary to reject reciprocity in


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love,” 15 for when the act of loving involves true self-denial within the erotic reduction, consciousness is not even aware of a self that wants to be loved or forgiven in return. Be this as it may, my goal here is not to pursue issues of theology and comparative religions, however interesting they may be. Instead, what I find particularly intriguing is the fear and trembling that Kierkegaard finds to be a fitting end to his otherwise masterful text on love. But is it so fitting? Does it belong? Is there an actual relationship between love and “fearful trembling” as suggested by Kierkegaard’s text? This is a question for the philosophy of love. Further, given that it is hard to imagine Kierkegaard drafting the closing sentences of Works of Love and the expression of “an unforgettable Fear and Trembling” (in Kierkegaard’s Danish the nouns are capitalized) without recalling his earlier pseudonymous text Fear and Trembling, we must also wonder about the possible relationship between these two texts. Is there a thematic or philosophical connection between Fear and Trembling and Works of Love, the latter of which has been seen as offering a corrective to the former, at least if one takes the former as projecting a metaphysics of violence. This is a textual, hermeneutic question in Kierkegaard studies. It is these philosophical and hermeneutic questions that I shall turn to now. The first question is whether fear or “fearful trembling” belongs to or should belong to the experience of love. Note that I use the expression “fearful trembling” to designate a unified phenomenon, since I do not think Kierkegaard means to distinguish “fear” and “trembling” as separate phenomena. A couple points serve as evidence for this. First, there are parallel endings to both the first and second series of discourses in Works of Love, such that the final conclusion, as already seen, refers to “fear and trembling,” while the ending of the first series that closes with the discourse “Our Duty to Remain in Love’s Debt,” explains how Christians will behave differently than others in the world “out of fear of someone invisible” [af Frygt for en Usynlig]. 16 These parallel endings chosen by Kierkegaard suggest a conceptual equivalence between “fear” and “fear and trembling.” Additionally, in a letter to Rasmus Nielsen from 1848 Kierkegaard writes about the “fear of being misunderstood by frequent writing,” and after referring to “fear” three times initially, he then refers to “fear and trembling,” without indicating any shift in meaning: “Oh, my dear sir, when it comes to fear and trembling I am after all an old dialectician. I do not unconditionally fear misunderstanding; I believe that misunderstanding is a dialectical moment in understanding.” 17 We are thus justified in treating “fear,” “fear and trembling,” and “fearful trembling” as synonymous expressions in Kierkegaard’s writings. The question is now whether Kierkegaard is justified in connecting fearful trembling with the act of love.

Love’s Fear


In comparison to love, it is perhaps a rather commonplace observation for both psychology and phenomenology that fear manifests itself as a decidedly different phenomenon. We have seen how Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love can be read phenomenologically, in as much as Kierkegaard views love as a conscious act that “forms the heart.” 18 This metaphorical expression refers to an intentional stance based on the interiority of love, one that puts into play a radical reduction, in line with the “erotic reduction” that is central to Marion’s work. There is, however, no similarly deep discourse on fearful trembling in Works of Love, and when we turn to de Silentio’s “dialectical lyric” it cannot be without surprise that we note the absence of a detailed description of the fearful trembling that serves as the book’s central theme. Let us thus turn to a recent literary work for a description which surely suggests just how far apart the experiences of love and fear must be. For such a description, let us consider Yann Martel’s bestselling Life of Pi (which incidentally makes reference to Kierkegaard on the third page, and where the expression “fearful trembling” is used): I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. . . . It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in the mind, always. . . . You feel yourself weakening, wavering. Your anxiety becomes dread. Fear next turns fully to your body, which is already aware that something terribly wrong is going on. Already your lungs have flown away like a bird and your guts have slithered away like a snake. . . . And so with the rest of your body. Every part of you, in the manner most suited to it, falls apart. . . . The matter is difficult to put into words. For fear, real fear, such as shakes you to your foundation, such as you feel when you are brought face to face to your mortal end, nestles in your memory like a gangrene: it seeks to rot everything, even the words with which to speak of it. 19

Considering this description, one can hardly imagine a more contrary phenomenon to love than fear. Where fear weakens, love strengthens seeing “something as greater than it is.” 20 Where fear destroys and turns to dread, love “eternally and happily secure[s] against despair.” 21 “What is it that perseveres when everything falls away? It is love. What is it that comforts when all comfort fails? It is love.” 22 But what is it that ends Kierkegaard’s Works of Love? It is fear. Let us try to consider a way of understanding fearful trembling as a part of love, one which would seem rather natural. “Fear is a reaction to a threat to one’s love,” 23 or in other words, it is a disposition in which we are afraid of losing the ones we love and thus hope that we do not. The syllogism would go like this:

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Love includes hope. (Kierkegaard suggests this. 24) Hope includes fear. (Spinoza demonstrates this and writes: “there is no hope without fear, and no fear without hope.” 25) Therefore, love includes fear. Is it possible to resist this conclusion and show that our argument is unsound? I think it is, and we can actually use Kierkegaard’s work as a resource for refuting this argument. In his deliberation “Love Hopes All Things—and Yet Is Never Put to Shame” Kierkegaard writes that “we must define more accurately what it is to hope,” 26 and his definition undermines the second premise above, “hope includes fear,” and thus provides a strong counter to Spinoza’s view. Kierkegaard explains how “to hope relates to the future, to possibility,” and “when the eternal is in the temporal, it is in the future or in possibility.” 27 Hope and fear are thus distinguished as follows: To relate oneself expectantly to the possibility of the good is to hope, which for that very reason cannot be any temporal expectancy but is an eternal hope. To relate oneself expectantly to the possibility of evil is to fear. But both the one who hopes and the one who fears are expecting. As soon, however, as the choice is made, the possible is changed, because the possibility of the good is the eternal. . . . That is why the person who hopes can never be deceived, because to hope is to expect the possibility of the good, but the possibility of the good is the eternal. 28

Following Kierkegaard’s reasoning here, the syllogism can be changed to the following: Love includes hope. Hope excludes fear. Therefore, love excludes fear. Consequently, not only does this connection between love and fearful trembling fail, but it is also rejected by Kierkegaard in such a way that would seemingly preclude any connection at all between love and fearful trembling. So again, why does he make the connection elsewhere? The central focus of Works of Love is clearly placed on the love of one’s neighbor, and fearful trembling does not arise in a reflection on this loving relationship, and we may also note that Marion’s comprehensive phenomenological analysis of the experience of love from the advance of the lover to the crossing of the flesh and the arrival of the third party does not include the slightest mention of fear. So Kierkegaard and Marion would both appear to agree that there is no fear in the love of another human being, whether one’s neighbor or one’s beloved. Wherever we find the mention of fear in Kierke-

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gaard’s writings, it seems to be connected with the love of God. As already mentioned, the ending to the first series of Works of Love makes reference to “the fear of the invisible one,” 29 and in the closing words of Works of Love we find the claim that “the person who relates himself to God’s love . . . is bound to have an unforgettable fear and trembling.” 30 Furthermore, even though Kierkegaard offers an opening prayer to “you God of love, source of all love in heaven and on earth . . . O Eternal Love, you who are everywhere present . . . ,” 31 it does not prevent him just a few pages later from writing this: “There is only one whom a person should fear, and that is God; and there is only one of whom a person should be afraid, and that is oneself. It is true that no hypocrite has ever deceived anyone who in fear and trembling before God was afraid of himself.” 32 Thus, in trying to understand Kierkegaard’s connection between love and fearful trembling we can at least say that it is expressed specifically with regard to the love of God, and this is ostensively the case with de Silentio’s work Fear and Trembling, which has as its central theme the relationship to God. What we would particularly like to know is whether a phenomenological analysis of the love of God can show the presence of an experience of fear. 33 Although I have already provided reasons for doubting that it could, I would nevertheless not presume to know fully how to begin such an analysis, let alone accomplish a task fraught with difficulties than that which no greater can be conceived. ABRAHAM’S SILENT LOVE There is, significantly, little direct discussion of love in the indirect communication Fear and Trembling, and an early comment seems to preclude the possibility of any positive account: “God’s love, in both the direct and the converse sense, is incommensurable with the whole of actuality.” 34 Later we find an expression of the “paradox of love” in that “God is the one who demands absolute love” 35 and that this love requires Abraham, who “must love Isaac with his whole soul,” 36 to sacrifice his son, such that we experience this ethically as an act of human hatred. Obviously, this paradox provokes fearful trembling, but as de Silentio explains, Abraham “is thoroughly incapable of making himself understandable.” 37 Thus he remains silent, supposedly out of love. Is love mute and must it remain silent? Is there this negativity in love that it lacks the words to communicate itself? Let us recall Kierkegaard’s last deliberation on the work of love in praising love 38 and consider instead that the fullness of love leads to an outpouring of communicative acts. Of course, these will not exhaust the expression of love or completely capture its essence, but works of love include words of love. Love says “Here I am!” 39 “Come!” 40 “I love you!” “Again!” 41 The paradox of Abraham is that while


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he expresses his love of God through saying and repeating “Here I am” to God, 42 he remains silent toward the human ones he loves. It cannot be accepted as unproblematic to maintain that the love of God would conflict with the love of the ones that we see, and thus the account of the Akedah will forever remain as controversial as any account of an experience of a love of God that results in total silence toward one’s earthly beloveds. This would seem to raise the question whether the love of God (but not necessarily the God of love) inhibits the lover’s communication of love toward human others. Hence the silence. But if this were truly the case, then we could not maintain the likeness between the love of God and the love of others, as Jesus proclaims and Kierkegaard explains. 43 It thus appears to be an unavoidable conclusion that Abraham’s fearful trembling cannot find the words for love, and that de Silentio, who of course admits to not understanding Abraham, also falls short in expressing love. While it may indeed be true, as Sharon Krishek has nicely argued in Kierkegaard on Faith and Love, that love requires faith—and Marion has demonstrated that faithfulness is the temporality of love 44—it is still logically possible that faith, perhaps even the faith of Abraham, does not require love. It is telling that Krishek’s interpretation is centered on the frequently neglected story of the Merman rather than the story of Abraham. 45 Although Krishek attempts to speak of Abraham when she speaks of love—in particular in chapter 3, which is suggestively titled “The Knight of Love”—there is actually very little explanation of Abraham acting as a lover. Instead, “The Knight of Love” focuses on the paradox of faith, and while Abraham is said to love Isaac with “the greatest fatherly love possible,” 46 it is hard to find any convincing account of how this is demonstrated by either de Silentio or Krishek. In order to understand Abraham as a Knight of Love it would need to be shown how his willingness to perform an action that shows itself at first to be an act of hatred toward Isaac and Sarah can be understood as a deed of love. Now while it may be true, as Kierkegaard has written, that any act, even perhaps such a destructive act of murder, could be done out of love, it is not at all clear how this particular act—even the binding itself and the raising of the knife, which would surely traumatize young Isaac—performs a loving deed. It does not, for example, prevent future suffering, as in the case of an assisted suicide or the killing of Lennie by George in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Instead, its end is entirely dubious, which is why thankfully it never comes to pass. Thus, if we are going to speak of Abraham as a Knight of Love, we need to consider his relations to human others and show how this is possible in light of his acts. The Abraham story thus presents a grave challenge for the philosophy of love, and it is not hard to sympathize with Franz Kafka who calls the Akedah “an old story not worth discussing any longer.” 47 Chis Danta’s recent work

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Literature Suspends Death: Sacrifice and Storytelling in Kierkegaard, Kafka, and Blanchot insightfully examines the Abrahamic texts of Kierkegaard, Kafka, and Blanchot, and he shows how de Silentio’s variations of the Abraham story preclude maintaining a positive relation to the end of the story, 48 and this bolsters Danta’s claim that neither Kierkegaard nor Derrida, who follows Kierkegaard’s emphasis on silence and secrecy, account for “the victim of sacrifice.” 49 In the absence of such an account (which as Blanchot’s text suggests must also address the non-human animal victim) the tension between the so-called knight of love and knight of faith remains as sharp and pointed as Abraham’s knife. Does this mean that we should reject Fear and Trembling, as M. Holmes Hartshorne does in Kierkegaard: Godly Deceiver? 50 This conclusion seems too extreme, and I have shown elsewhere the problems in Hartshorne’s study. 51 But we can argue that the life-views put forth in Fear and Trembling and Works of Love are in tension, and in contrast to Krishek’s view that “Works of Love presents a confused and inconsistent view of romantic love,” 52 it can be claimed that Fear and Trembling presents a confused and inconsistent view of divine love. Therefore, the final suggestion that Kierkegaard makes in the conclusion of Works of Love to act out your love in fear and trembling is misguided at best. Let us not forget that for Abraham “nothing changes,” 53 the event does not come to pass, which arguably “undermines [the] entire account” 54 in Fear and Trembling. Thus, in light of this grave non-event, it is not unreasonable to claim that fearful trembling is not a necessary part of the love of God. 55 So, why does Kierkegaard connect the two? I am afraid that I do not know, and speculating about the “childhood love lessons” 56 he learned in his home is perhaps unfair. Much is made about Kierkegaard’s relationship to his strict father, but so very little is known about their daily existence, so we cannot know whether the precocious and pesky little Søren may have been treated sternly, supposedly out of love. 57 Whether this is the case or not, it is still important to observe that, as bell hooks has written in All about Love, “there is nothing that creates more confusion about love in the minds and the hearts of children than unkind and/or cruel punishment meted out by the grownups they have been taught they should love and respect.” 58 Such confusion must ultimately occur because the pure experience of love is without coercion and fear. 59 “Love is patient, love is kind,” 60 it “does not seek its own” 61 and is thus beyond reciprocity and beyond punishment. Such is Kierkegaard’s view when he is at his phenomenological best, as in his earliest Upbuilding Discourse on love, which ends with the admonition that “the punishment of sin breeds new sin, but love hides a multitude of sins.” 62 What shall we conclude? Let us look at the matter with clarity and try to work our way toward love. Fear and Trembling in undoubtedly a remarkable little lyric, and the view put forth that faith is a tremulous experience can


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certainly be defended. However, we can also recognize shortcomings in Kierkegaard’s reading of the Akedah, some of which are carefully analyzed in Danta’s recent work. What is the merit of continuing to discuss this story? If we wish to view the Abraham story as relevant for the philosophy of love, then it seems that we shall have to conceive for ourselves another Abraham, as Kafka suggests, 63 as well as one which empathizes with the ram, toward whom little love has been—and with the exception of Blanchot continues not be—directed. Perhaps we can interpret Fear and Trembling and the silence of its author another way. Maybe there is a connection between de Silentio and the author of Works of Love such that de Silentio cannot understand Abraham, and silently wonders whether faith without love is dead. For it may be the case that in faith “interiority is higher than exteriority,” 64 but for the lover the “hidden life” of interiority needs to form a heart of love that manifests itself in fruits of exteriority. 65 Thus Kierkegaard writes that “a profession of faith is not enough . . . to indicate that one is a Christian.” 66 Instead, what is needed, all you need, is love. While the requirement to express love is clearly pervasive throughout Works of Love, how this explains the “one more thing” that Kierkegaard appends to the conclusion remains unclear. Perhaps there is a lesson for writers here, in that they should resist the urge to add an additional thought to a completed work, one that in this case should have ended with the call to “go forth and love one another,” which is a momentous enough task for us all. Whatever Kierkegaard’s reasons for his conclusion to Works of Love, such as a stylistic urge to echo the end of the First Series, they cannot have included a phenomenological one. When we consider the phenomenology of love, our conclusion should be clear: fear is an obstacle to love, and love overcomes fear. This is the only real relationship that can be established between these two phenomena, and it is a relationship that Kierkegaard’s master Socrates—that first true philosopher of love, who only understood “the art of love” 67—makes clear. 68 That this consideration would not occur to Kierkegaard when writing his conclusion to Works of Love may not be that surprising—after all, it may have been a while since he had read Plato. But that he could begin his conclusion by quoting verse seven from chapter 4 in the first letter of John and then end his text with a note of fear and trembling is baffling when we consider that just a few lines later the Apostle John had written these words: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 69 Now, I would argue that the Apostle was thinking phenomenologically when he wrote these words, but this suggests that when Kierkegaard turned away from this biblical text to instead discourse on the like for like, which is after all not directly expressed in the Bible, he also turned away from the phenomenology of love. This observation lends weight to George

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Pattison’s argument that Kierkegaard is to be regarded as a Christian moralist over a phenomenologist, 70 but it also suggests why and how reading Kierkegaard phenomenologically helps, for it avoids the problems of Christian metaphysics that sometimes work against Kierkegaard’s effort of love. As Jeffrey Bloechl claims: “If we address Kierkegaard as phenomenologist we propose to understand him as far as possible without ulterior appeal to any metaphysics.” 71 Along these same lines, when we read Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist of love we will not be distracted by the metaphysical notions of self, sin, and salvation, for these can all be seen as related to an experience of fear, while none of them need to belong to the proper phenomenon of love. Some readers will likely object that taking the fear and trembling out of love leads to a less rigorous conception, one that they might even suggest— along with Kierkegaard in has late attacks in The Moment—belongs to “the syrupy sweets stocked by truth-witnesses of the lie.” 72 We need to be motivated by the fear of God in order to love right, they will say, and it is painfully clear that Kierkegaard interpreted Christianity every bit as much of a “doctrine about the cross and agony and terror and trembling before eternity” 73 as a doctrine of love. But why would we consider one moved to love out of love alone and the accompanying joy as showing less rigor? Is it not, in fact, more difficult to love for the reason of love itself, and not for any reason based on an economic accounting before the gates of eternity and the possibility of a future happiness? Is it not more difficult, in experience, to find, here and now, that infinite and eternal source of love that moves and inspires one, as Kierkegaard writes, “joyful and grateful, to want to be what is the consequence of being loved by [God] and of loving [God]”? 74 It is time we stop deceiving ourselves. To love without fear and trembling is more rigorous because it makes love a purely active response and not a passive reaction done out of fear, which those who object must surely see as an expression unworthy to be called loved. Love’s rationality does not require fear and trembling as a contradictory reason for action. There is no paradox here. On the contrary, it has its own reason within itself, and when put in motion, when enacted in the erotic reduction, it is evident that fearful trembling has no place. MOMENTS OF DIVINE MADNESS When we read Kierkegaard on the experience of divine love, we cannot help but be struck by the mixed messages he conveys when thinking that “God is love” and that fearful trembling must accompany the love of God. On the one hand, he writes that “ultimately, love for God is the decisive factor; from this originates love for the neighbor.” 75 But, on the other hand, he goes so far as


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to claim that God is our “mortal enemy.” 76 Unfortunately, despite the profundity of his thinking about love, we shall never be able to know with certainty why he could not find his way to a consistent conception of love based on a phenomenology of the experience of love. Obviously, readers may first question the teachings of Christianity itself and find mixed messages there, and they may also wonder about Kierkegaard’s own experiences of love, in particular the fatherly love that was the central point for his life and understanding of love. Kierkegaard explains the origin and centrality of his understanding of divine love as follows: “I learned from him [my father] what fatherly love is, and through this I gained a conception of divine fatherly love, the one single unshakable thing in life, the true Archimedean point.” 77 But we should of course be wary of involving ourselves in speculations that are both unfruitful and uncharitable. Instead, we must try to stay focused on conceiving the perfect expression of love, while also acknowledging the problematic textual considerations that arise throughout the search. Most readers of Kierkegaard recognize a sharp change in tone in Kierkegaard’s late writings in The Moment that attack, accuse, and condemn basically all Christians for falsehood. As John Caputo explains the matter in How to Read Kierkegaard, “Kierkegaard wanted to be a Christian Socrates, but the final version expressed in 1854–1855 suggests the darker wisdom of a Christian Silenus: best of all is not to be born, but if you are born, it is best not to perpetuate life.” 78 Nevertheless, just as Kierkegaard provides a Christian means for moving beyond Christendom, I have attempted to show how we can in likewise find within his writings resources for a phenomenology of love that moves beyond a conception of love made problematic by certain theological concerns. The success of this account ultimately remains to be determined by readers, but it should be kept in mind that my overarching goal is to try to understand the experience of love itself in truth, and not to present any particular interpretation of Christianity, which must nevertheless be acknowledged as having something powerful to say about love. In The Moment # 5 Kierkegaard opens by referencing the Christian requirement to “love one’s enemy,” 79 but then he adds a most unexpected twist by identifying God as one’s enemy. God is indeed a human being’s most appalling enemy, your mortal enemy. Indeed, he wants you to die, to die to the world; he hates specifically that in which you naturally have your life, to which you cling with all your zest for life. The people who do not become involved at all with God enjoy—appalling irony!—the benefit that God does not torment them in this life. No, it is only those he loves, those who become involved with him, whose mortal enemy, to speak merely humanly, he must be said to be—yet out of love [Kjerlighed].

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But he is your mortal enemy; he, love, he out of love wants to be loved by you, and this means that you must die, die to the world; otherwise you cannot love him. 80 . . . So terrible, to speak merely humanly, is God in his love, so terrible, to speak merely humanly, is it to be loved by God and to love God. The minor premise in the statement “God is love” is: he is your mortal enemy. 81

This passage raises several theological issues while also exposing uncertainties about love, which is after all in Kierkegaard’s view equivalent to God. The view that God, love, “wants,” “hates,” and only becomes involved with some persons presents conceptual difficulties that ought not to be ignored and cannot be easily explained away. Perhaps some explanation could be offered based on Kierkegaard’s point of speaking “merely humanly,” in which case love could be seen as involving change, risk, and a movement away from one’s “natural” comfort zone, but this would fall short in explaining the insurmountable theological difficulty of attributing wanting (or desire or will) to God (not to mention that the God of love hates). For if it is the case that God wants to be loved—which already presents an imperfection and absurdly anthropomorphic conception of God as Spinoza explains in his Ethics 82—then sometimes he will be loved, in which case he will be changed in wanting less, and sometimes he will not be loved, in which case he will be changed in wanting more. If we insist on an understanding of love as a saturated phenomenon of pure overflowing fullness—which is a view that Kierkegaard also holds—then we must conclude that from within the erotic reduction love does not want to be loved, love only loves. Furthermore, as already explained, to view God as wanting to be loved necessitates change, and this contradicts the significant late discourse by Kierkegaard titled “The Changelessness of God.” This discourse, published in the last year of Kierkegaard’s life although written a few years prior, is significant for our investigation on the philosophy of love, for by “The Changelessness of God” we can also understand “the changelessness of love.” We can also see it as expressing the idea that love is constant and, humanly considered, we can take this as a goal: we are to become “changeless in love.” 83 In doing this we will no doubt be performing the ultimate imitation of God, who in Kierkegaard’s opening prayer is called “Infinite Love,” “you who are changeless in love.” 84 Following the opening prayer, Kierkegaard quotes the biblical verse that is the focus of the discourse. The verse is James 1:17-21, which reads: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the father of lights, with whom there is no change or shadow of variation. . . . Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, because a person’s anger does not work what is righteous


Chapter 7 before God. Therefore put away all filthiness and all remnants of wickedness and receive with meekness the word that is implanted in you and that is powerful for making your souls blessed. 85

This text, Kierkegaard writes at the beginning of his discourse, “is sheer joy and gladness; as from the mountain peaks where silence lives . . . because from above there is always only good news.” 86 The greatest news is of course that we have been given a gift from “the friendliest of beings, love itself . . . and the gift is good and perfect, yes, as love itself.” 87 The gift can be nothing other than love itself, and experiencing this gift can bring nothing other than “sheer consolation, peace, joy, [and] blessedness” just as “the thought of the changelessness of God is simply and solely sheer consolation, peace, joy, blessedness. And this is indeed eternally true.” 88 Less joyfully, however, Kierkegaard cannot rest in this thought that is said to bring “solely sheer consolation, peace, joy, blessedness” for he then parallels the problematic move that he made in the conclusion to Works of Love by shifting the focus of the discourse to an interpretation of this thought as “terrifying, sheer fear and trembling.” 89 The apparent distinction that Kierkegaard wishes to make is an experiential one: the apostle experiences the thought of the changelessness of God as sheer joy and gladness, whereas for the rest of “us light-minded and unstable human beings,” 90 Kierkegaard explains, “there is sheer fear and trembling in this thought about the changelessness of God. It is almost as if it were far, far beyond human powers to have to be involved with a changelessness such as that; indeed, it seems as if this thought must plunge a person into anxiety and unrest to the point of despair.” 91 Although we recognize that multitude of varied phenomena that humans experience, it is contradictory to claim that the phenomenon of divine love directly calls forth such divergent experiences. At best, although not without oddity, we could say that the experience of divine love could make us recognize our own shortcomings and lack of love, and that by then directing one’s focus to this lack we could experience the negative phenomena that Kierkegaard describes—sheer fear and trembling, anxiety, and despair. But this is not the experience of love. It is the experience of our lack of love, and thus we find that Kierkegaard makes the mistake of attributing the divergent experiences of joy and fear to the same thought, but it is not the same thought or the same intentional consciousness. An understanding of the erotic reduction makes this plain. Nevertheless, Kierkegaard’s writing illuminates, for insofar as we experience our lack of love we are crushed, 92 whereas insofar as we experience love we are “sustained . . . for [a] lifetime, for an eternity.” 93 From Fear and Trembling to The Moment, Kierkegaard presents readers with multiple moments of madness, but as he and Plato know very well, there are different kinds of madness, but only one kind of madness is divine, and

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this is love. “It is a divine kind of madness to be lovingly unable to see the evil that takes place right in front of one.” 94 Thus, the highest madness consists in being “a loving person, who has a great understanding of the good and does not want any understanding of evil.” 95 Whenever we consider the love of God, let it thus be in line with our loving understanding of the good. “The highest good” is never something that one “can have only for [one]self alone,” 96 so the phenomenology of love rightly centers its focus on loving others rather than either loving oneself or loving God. NOTES 1. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 280. 2. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, part 2, 15. 3. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1962), 158, modified slightly by the translation in Works of Love (1995), 160. 4. 1 John 4:7. 5. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 374. 6. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 386. 7. I would add that the real beginning of this problem occurred during my teaching of Kierkegaard’s Works of Love in my Philosophy of Love course, when I found that bright students who appreciated Kierkegaard’s work could nevertheless not make good sense of the odd conclusion to Works of Love. 8. Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard’s Writings VI, translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), 239; Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 395; JP III 2383; Pap. II A 370. 9. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 209. 10. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 83. 11. Matthew 8:13; Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 378. 12. John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “The End,” Abbey Road (Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, EMI Music Publishing, 1969). 13. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 69. 14. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 69. 15. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 70. 16. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 204; Kierkegaard, Kjerlighedens Gjerninger, Søren Kierkegaards Skrifter 9, edited by Niels Jørgen Cappelørn, Joakim Garff, and Johnny Kondrup (Copenhagen, Denmark: Søren Kierkegaard Forskningscenteret, 2004), 202. Kierkegaards Skrifter [Kierkegaard’s Writings] are available online at 17. Søren Kierkegaard, Letters and Documents, Kierkegaard’s Writings XXV, translated by Henrik Rosenmeier (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 252. 18. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 12. 19. Yann Martel, Life of Pi (Boston, MA: Mariner Books, 2001), 161-162. 20. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 16. 21. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 29. 22. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 55. 23. Furtak, Wisdom in Love, 9. 24. See Kierkegaard, “Love Hopes All Things,” in Works of Love, 246. 25. Spinoza, Ethics, 216. This quotation is from the “Definitions of the Emotions” at the end of part 3 in the “Explanation” for number 13. 26. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 250. 27. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 249. 28. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 249-250. 29. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 204.


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30. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 386. 31. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 3-4. 32. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 15; note that none of these references to “fear” and “fear and trembling” are included in the book’s index, even though these entries are there. 33. At any rate, no such analysis can be found in Jeffrey Hanson’s excellent edited work Kierkegaard as Phenomenologist: An Experiment. 34. Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, 34. 35. Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, 73. 36. Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, 74. 37. Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, 74. 38. Kierkegaard, “The Work of Love in Praising Love,” Works of Love, 359-374. 39. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 104-105. 40. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 131. 41. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 135. 42. See Genesis 22:1 and 22:11. 43. The biblical passage is Matthew 22:39 and Kierkegaard begins his explanation in chapter 2 A of Works of Love. 44. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, §36. 45. See Strawser, Sharon Krishek’s Kierkegaard on Faith and Love in Søren Kierkegaard Newsletter, 23. 46. Krishek is explaining de Silentio’s view here. See Krishek, Kierkegaard on Faith and Love, 77n5. 47. Franz Kafka, “Abraham,” in Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories and Parables, edited by Nahum N. Glatzer (New York, NY: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1983), 465. 48. Chris Danta, Literature Suspends Death: Sacrifice and Storytelling in Kierkegaard, Kafka and Blanchot (London, UK: Continuum, 2011), 46. My review of this work has appeared in Religion and Literature 44.3 (Autumn 2012), 261-263. 49. Danta, Literature Suspends Death, 65. 50. Hartshorne writes: “Fear and Trembling is ironic to the core. It pretends to be a serious analysis of faith, but it carries the reader very persuasively, very artfully and insightfully, from one absurdity to another. The irony is pervasive.” M. Holmes Hartshorne, Kierkegaard, Godly Deceiver: The Nature and Meaning of His Pseudonymous Writings (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1990), 11. 51. See Strawser, Both/And: Reading Kierkegaard from Irony to Edification, chapter 5 “Are the Pseudonymous Views Completely Bogus? On Hartshorne’s Kierkegaard, Godly Deceiver,” 100-109. 52. Krishek, Kierkegaard on Faith and Love, 15. 53. Geoffrey Hale, Kierkegaard and the Ends of Language (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 144. 54. Danta, Literature Suspends Death, 110. 55. Marion’s recent work argues that the phenomenology of sacrifice reveals that it does not require destruction, but rather the givenness of the gift. Marion writes: Abraham hears himself asked not so much to kill his son, to lose him and return possession of him to God, as, first and foremost, to give back to him his status as gift, precisely to return him to his status as gift given by reducing him (leading him back) to givenness. Thus sacrifice requires neither destruction, nor restitution, nor even exchange, much less a contract, because its basis is not the economy (which dispenses with the gift), but the gift itself, whose aporia it endeavors to work through. Jean-Luc Marion, “Sketch of a Phenomenological Concept of Sacrifice,” in Jean-Luc Marion: The Essential Writings, edited by Kevin Hart (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2013), 447, 448. While this account would allow for the possibility of the conjunction of love

Love’s Fear


and sacrifice (although this is not specifically addressed by Marion), it is still problematic in that it does not account for the ram, something that it has in common with de Silentio’s account. For an interesting focus on the account of the ram see Maurice Blanchot’s work, which is discussed in chapter 4 of Chris Danta’s Literature Suspends Death. Danta presents readers with “Blanchot’s Abraham,” or better, Blanchot’s ram, for in his writing on the Akedah in When the Time Comes, Blanchot emphasizes the end of the story in which the ram “is the whole sacrifice—and the whole story—as it must be rethought in terms of the substitution of ‘a purely vicarious victim’” (105). For Blanchot, Abraham is haunted by the image of the ram throughout the rest of his days, suggesting that we can read this story as a kind of a meta-fable on “the relation between the human and the animal” (111), one in which, Danta argues, “the ram’s substitution [is] the most properly literary moment in Genesis 22” (133). 56. See bell hooks, “Justice: Childhood Love Lessons,” in All about Love: New Visions (New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 2000), 17-30, for an honest account of how coercion, or what she calls “intimate terrorism” cannot coexist with love (19). Any account which claims otherwise must surely be the product of a dangerous patriarchal caprice. 57. Nevertheless, would it not be more unusual that he had not than that he had, especially when we recall that it was a common practice in Lutheran homes in Scandinavia to subject children to weekly beatings to rid them of the devil, and that this practice continued well into the twentieth century? In this connection it is interesting to note that M. Jamie Ferreira’s commentary on the conclusion of Works of Love turns to Martin Luther’s theology for clarification. Although Kierkegaard had apparently read little by Luther before 1847, when he started to do so Kierkegaard noted his affinity with Luther with “happy amazement.” But Ferreira writes that we should not be misled “about Kierkegaard’s familiarity with Luther’s teaching. This is, after all, the tradition in which he was painstakingly raised.” Ferreira, Love’s Grateful Striving, 248. 58. hooks, All about Love, 17-18. 59. A related point is the disconnect that exists between love and testing. In Works of Love Kierkegaard regards wanting to test love as “insulting foolhardiness” (33) and explains that “if the test is dragged into the relationship, treachery has been committed” (166). Of course, we may wish to argue that when it comes to God, there is an absolute difference, and for however true this may be, it does nothing to help us better understand the love of God. 60. 1 Corinthians 13:4; Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 219-220. 61. 1 Corinthians 13:5; Kierkegaard, “Love Does Not Seek Its Own,” Works of Love, 264279. 62. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 68. 63. See Kafka’s “Abraham,” where he writes: “I could conceive of another Abraham for myself—he certainly would have never gotten to be a patriarch or even an old-clothes dealer” (464-465). 64. Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, 69. 65. See Kierkegaard, “Love’s Hidden Life and Its Recognizability by Its Fruits,” Works of Love, 5-16. 66. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 463; see also 375. 67. Plato, Symposium, 177d; Plato on Love, 33. 68. See in particular Plato’s Parmenides, which “links eroticism to overcoming fear.” Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World, 99. As seen above, Gordon’s important new study demonstrates that eros is the central driving force behind all of Plato’s writings. She also shows in chapter 3 how courage is key to the life of eros, and courage is of course a remedy for fear. See my review of Gordon’s work in Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review/Revue canadienne de philosophie 53.2 (June 2014): 375-377. 69. 1 John 4:18. Kierkegaard surely knows this passage, and it is cited in Kierkegaard, Letters and Documents, 252. 70. See Pattison, “Kierkegaard and the Limits of Phenomenology,” 188-207. See especially the last section, “Kierkegaard as Christian Moralist,” 204-205. 71. Jeffrey Bloechl, “Kierkegaard Between Fundamental Ontology and Theology: Phenomenological Approaches to Love of God,” in Kierkegaard as Phenomenologist, 25.


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72. Søren Kierkegaard, The Moment and Late Writings, Kierkegaard’s Writings XXIII, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 178. 73. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 178. 74. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 78. 75. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 57. 76. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 177. 77. Kierkegaard, The Moment, xii, 383. 78. John Caputo, How to Read Kierkegaard, 116. 79. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 177. 80. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 177. 81. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 178. 82. As Spinoza writes in the Appendix of part 1 of the Ethics, the doctrine that God has a will and acts toward some end “takes away the perfection of God; for if God acts on account of an end, he necessarily desires something which he lacks.” 83. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 268. 84. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 268. 85. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 268-269. 86. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 269. 87. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 270. 88. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 271. 89. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 272. 90. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 276. 91. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 278. 92. Cf. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 272. 93. Kierkegaard, The Moment, 279. 94. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 287. 95. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 287. 96. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1962), 43.

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We shall speak as to those who are perfect. —Kierkegaard 1 It may be that, at the end of my days, I will sum up myself in my acts as a lover. —Marion 2 Love’s element is infinitude, inexhaustibility, immeasurability. —Kierkegaard 3

In Works of Love Kierkegaard writes that “loving people is the only thing worth living for,” 4 thus clearly marking out what should be taken as the central focus of one’s life. In this study I have endeavored to situate Kierkegaard in relation to the philosophy of love, while accentuating the weight Kierkegaard gives to loving others and trying to understand phenomenologically how love manifests itself. We have seen that throughout his various and complicated writings—From the Papers of One Still Living, in which he expresses the concern to develop a life-view, to The Concept of Irony, where it becomes clear that the healthy life-view will be centered on love, to Either/ Or, Stages on Life’s Way, and the Edifying Discourses, where the immediacy and intentionality of love come into focus, to Works of Love, in which the description of the life of love is most fully expressed with the help of the light of eternity—the attempt to understand and advance what it means to love others, what it means to become a lover, is never abandoned. Thus, we can rightly conclude that Kierkegaard is first and foremost a philosopher of love, one who develops his understanding of love while under the influence of Socrates, Plato, and Hegel. Moreover, we have seen how Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love can be more carefully characterized as a 187


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first phenomenology of love, and we have seen what this means on Kierkegaard’s own account, as well as how this can be related to other phenomenological writers such as Scheler, von Hildebrand, Levinas, and most notably Marion. The priority of love is clearly expressed in the way that Kierkegaard envisions us relating to other human beings, such that we encounter them with a specific intentionality that presupposes love’s presence and hides a multitude of sins. In this work I have provided an account of Kierkegaard’s phenomenology of love mainly through an analysis of the aspects of love’s immediacy (chapter 3), love’s intentionality (chapter 4), and love’s eternity (chapter 5), as these fundamental features appear in Kierkegaard’s writings. I have not, however, endeavored to defend Kierkegaard’s account at every turn, and instead I have shown how his reflections on self-love (chapter 6) and the love of God (chapter 7) when viewed phenomenologically lead to problems that appear to be insoluble. It is with reluctance and difficulty that these latter two subjects have been addressed, for they have been seen to lead to love’s fall and love’s fear, and thus ultimately away from the central focus of this work on understanding how love manifests itself and how we should love. Although I have attempted to be wide-ranging in this study, both in terms of Kierkegaard’s writings and in terms of the philosophy of love, I cannot conclude that a fully comprehensive account has been given. There are surely many more parts of Kierkegaard’s writings that could be fruitfully studied and added to this work. My goal, however, has not been to provide an exhaustive commentary on Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love, as that would undoubtedly require volumes, but rather to demonstrate that Kierkegaard is first and foremost a philosopher of love and to indicate clearly what the central aspects of Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love are and how they can be cast upon the wider horizon of the philosophy of love. The thinking that I hope has emerged throughout this study involves weaving perspectives from seemingly divergent texts into a unified whole brought about through a focus on love—which is, after all, a unifying force. Nor has my goal been to attempt to define love once and for all, for as Kierkegaard’s pseudonym Vigilius Haufniensis writes in The Concept of Anxiety: “Whoever loves can hardly find joy and satisfaction, not to mention growth, in preoccupation with a definition of what love properly is.” 5 I have instead been most concerned with letting love manifest itself in the writings of Kierkegaard and others, and the hope that this may lead to growth and joy is implicit in the search. Of course, growing in love is not without its challenges, and one tension that never seems to be fully abated within Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love—which has been understood more deeply as a phenomenology of love—is that between the abstract and the concrete, or in other words, the common divine that we do not see and the individual person that we do.



Perhaps this tension pervades the philosophy of love in general, arising as it does from Plato’s writings and leading to this paradox, explained nicely by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein: For here is the paradox that Plato’s conception of love presents to us: In recounting this vision of a love so transcendent and impersonal, that “vision of the mind [that] begins to see keenly when that of the eyes starts to lose its edge” (219a), Plato still does not lose sight of Socrates. The very dialogues he creates to speak his vision of depersonalized philosophy keep the person of Socrates a constant before him, and so before us. 6

We have seen that for Kierkegaard keeping the personal other before us is a vital point, as we are to love the people we see, just as they are, in all their imperfections. “Only true love loves every human being according to the person’s distinctiveness,” writes Kierkegaard in Works of Love. 7 Nevertheless, we have also seen that Kierkegaard calls us, paradoxically it would seem, to seek the common watermark of the neighbor beyond the dissimilarities that clothe each individual. Given this, it is obvious that it would be wrong-headed to attribute only one of these views to Kierkegaard and to defend or attack only one of them depending on one’s preference. Instead, we must insist that Kierkegaard wishes us to appreciate both the concrete and the abstract within our experiences with other people, for they represent aspects of the same phenomenon. For within the erotic reduction that makes manifest the distinctiveness of the individual one also encounters the absolute value—which can be variously signified as the neighbor, the common watermark, the face—bestowed on the other from an elsewhere that can never become a concrete object of experience. As Irving Singer writes, “in itself, love is pervasively bound up with the abstract and the concrete,” 8 and Kierkegaard exhibits this truth decisively in his writings. In many ways this work marks a beginning—a beginning for a new reading of one of the greatest philosophers of love, a beginning for a more comprehensive study of Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love, and several beginnings of dialogues between Kierkegaard and multiple thinkers who understand love’s primacy. I hope to have shown how Kierkegaard’s profound writings on love not only prefigure contemporary discussions, but also hold possibilities for taking these discussions further. For the phenomenology of love is a relatively new area of research, and there is much more work that can be developed here. Kierkegaard and the politics of love is another area that remains to be more substantially developed, and as I have suggested, the phenomenological analysis of love can be of use for this future development. Throughout this work we have seen how Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love is both descriptive and normative. He describes actual movements in the ascent of love while also explaining how these movements can be actualized most effectively. Incited by the irony of love we are led to an experience of


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love’s immediacy with a specific directedness toward the other. Through the will to love we strive to maintain the erotic reduction and thereby allow love’s eternity to manifest itself. This is how we love, and this is how we should love. Kierkegaard’s philosophy of love also provides an ethics of love in that understanding how to become a lover emerges out of a call to understand that one should become a lover or that one should love. These two movements are intricately intertwined, as are any supposedly distinct types of love, and recognizing this leads us toward a unified conception of love in Kierkegaard. Nevertheless, Kierkegaard’s ideas have not been championed at all costs. Instead, we have seen how a phenomenological lens can help to clarify his ideas while also showing how love can go astray, or fall away from itself, especially when a focus on self or God (and these two terms seem oddly and tellingly related) shifts one’s perspective. We cannot deny that shifted perspectives can be read in Kierkegaard, but they are not what is most central, and they are not what should be most privileged. We can learn from this, if we are wise lovers. A considerable proportion of major philosophers have neglected to focus their work on love. There are seemingly a great many philosophers who have also failed at love. 9 We have now understood how the central task of becoming a lover plays itself out in Kierkegaard’s writing, so we might wish to ask whether Kierkegaard himself succeeded in becoming a lover. This question, however, and the kind of inquiry it calls for, is as problematic as asking whether he became a Christian. First, it cannot be decided by what would have to be a necessarily external study, since we cannot access the inner heart of Kierkegaard, and second, it directs one’s attention away from what is the highest and most important, and we all know what that is. 10 We have now also seen the truth in Irving Singer’s remark in volume three of The Nature of Love that Kierkegaard “writes book after book about the nature of love.” 11 So perhaps it would not be surprising to be able to read The Sickness unto Death, a book focused on the nature of despair and sin (which has not been considered above), as also—but in a negative way—a book about the nature of love and, in particular, how the lack of love can destroy a person. On the one hand, despair could be understood as “the unhappy state of not feeling loved,” 12 for surely when I am not valued, affirmed, and supported by others—for example, if others are cruel to me and continuously put me down—then it is easy to understand how I will find myself in a state of despair. Additionally, further support for this view can be found in contemporary scientific research on love and the lack of love. In a section entitled “The Power of Love—and Its Absence” in The Scientific American Book of Love, Sex, and the Brain: The Neuroscience of How, When, Why, and Who We Love, the lack of love, involving loneliness and despair, is shown to be one of the top influences on mortality. This is based



on “the results of a 2010 meta-analysis of 148 studies of how and why people die” in which it was found “that the lack of relationships is comparable to well-established risk factors for death such as smoking and alcohol consumption, and even greater than other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.” 13 On the other hand, the benefits of loving relationships are many, as studies have shown how love among friends (including even non-human animal ones) has these important benefits: love (1) lowers your blood pressure and inflammation, and thus heart disease and risk of stroke, (2) improves your immune system functioning, (3) helps you take better care of your health, for their sake if not for your own, (4) lowers or delays your risk of memory loss or Alzheimer’s disease, and (5) relieves pain. Just holding hands with someone you care about lowers pain perception. 14

But there are puzzles that result from understanding despair solely in this way of not receiving love. A first puzzle for theologically-minded readers is this: how can we ever be in this passive state of lovelessness called despair if God is perfect love? For example, in human relationships, the passive state of being loved is at least in some measure dependent on the activity of others loving. And, of course, when humans fail in this activity, which they invariably do, then despair can be a result. But if God expresses perfect unchanging and unconditional love, then it is difficult to see how one could fail to experience being loved. Cast in different terms, this puzzle raises the question of the phenomenology of “being loved,” and while I hope that we all have some insight into the phenomenology of being loved by other human beings, as I have suggested above in chapter 7, it seems that we cannot understand the phenomenology of being loved by God in the same way. So, the phenomenology of the God relationship must be characterized differently, if it can be characterized at all. Nevertheless, as suggested above, it is not hard to see that when one’s focus is shifted from love to God, then one may all too easily fall away from love. Consequently, despair could better be characterized as the unhealthy state in which I fail to enact love, for “a healthy human life is marked by concrete acts of love,” 15 and in the examples of the scientific research cited above we could see these as actually involving engaging in loving relationships and not just being a part of a relationship. Thus, the true cure for despair suggested in Kierkegaard’s writings is love, which is to say, works of love. This view avoids the puzzle of the seemingly passive failure to feel loved and instead has the benefit of accentuating the activity of the person in overcoming despair. It replaces the lack of certainty involved in feeling love with a certainty that can be known, for while I can never know for sure that I am loved, I can know when I have decided to love another, and even if my attempts at concrete acts of love fall short, I can still have the knowledge that


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I decided and tried to act lovingly. As Marion writes: “In short, the point is to ask, ‘Can I love first?’ rather than, ‘Does anyone out there love me?’—which means, to behave like a lover who gives himself, rather than like one who is loved tit for tat.” 16 Of course, although language leads me to posit an “I” at nearly every turn (as is well-illustrated in this very paragraph), we have seen that when love is enacted the movement is away from the “I” and the experience is one marked by self-renunciation. Moreover, this view steers clear of the abstraction of being loved by God and focuses on the actuality of loving others. Finally, if we take Works of Love as our guide, then “love” should not be understood solely as a feeling, but rather as a willful activity to open up to another person and promote his or her transformative growth. The successful lover loves continuously, and the successful lover, as Marion writes, is “the one who loves to the end. For the lover loves to love.” 17 Therefore if love becomes and remains the focus of our life’s activity, if we continue to work as love artists as Kierkegaard counsels, then we will have come a long way from despair indeed. NOTES 1. Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 59. 2. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 76. 3. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 180. 4. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 375. 5. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety, 81. 6. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2014), 259. The quotation cited is from Plato’s Symposium. 7. Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 270. 8. Singer, Philosophy of Love, 102. 9. For a humorous account see Andrew Shaffer’s Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love (New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 2011). 10. Kierkegaard writes: “At the distance of a quiet hour from life’s and the world’s confusion, every person understands what the highest is” (Works of Love, 78). 11. Singer, The Nature of Love, Vol. 3, 38. 12. Heather Ohaneson, “Loved into Life: The Tacit Resolution of Despair in Kierkegaard’s Sickness unto Death,” 1, unpublished paper presented at the Søren Kierkegaard Society at the American Philosophical Association in Atlanta, GA, in December 2012. 13. Judith Horstman, The Scientific American Book of Love, Sex, and the Brain: The Neuroscience of How, When, Why, and Who We Love (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2012), 33. 14. Horstman, The Scientific American Book of Love, Sex, and the Brain, 124. 15. Ohaneson, “Loved into Life,” 8. 16. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 71. 17. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 87.


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A (pseudonym), 68–69, 77, 83, 87n13, 88n44, 120, 146 Abraham, xv, 108, 175–178, 184n55, 185n63 absolute, the, 140 abstract, the, 34; and the concrete, 43, 126, 188–189 Ackerman, Diane, 20 actuality, 18, 20, 28n101, 41–42, 121, 175, 192; of child, 56 advance, the, xii, xiv, 42, 105–106, 108, 135; of Alcibiades, 35; of Don Juan, 77; Marion’s discussion of, 76, 82–83, 85, 171, 174. See also love, initiative of aesthete. See aesthetic aesthetic, 6, 14, 52, 62n35, 68–69, 79, 115, 120, 121, 125; conception of love, 4, 37, 67; and the religious, xiii agape, xiv, 13, 34, 53, 97, 116, 117–119, 130n17, 132n77. See also love, Christian affects, 95. See also emotion(s) Akedah, 175–177, 184n55 Alcibiades, 34–35, 42, 44, 46, 63n67 Andersen, Hans-Christian, 32 animal(s), 58, 125, 163n4, 184n55, 191 Anti-Climacus, 6, 167n129 anxiety, 7, 85–86, 95, 182 amor fati, 12 appraisal, 10–11, 13, 76, 88n55 Aristophanes, 33, 126

Aristotle, 45, 147–148, 152 Augustine, 15, 95, 110n19, 119 Badiou, Alain, 1–2, 24n1 Barrett, Lee C., xi beauty/beautiful, 36–37, 43–44, 81, 99, 122 being, 6, 31, 34, 45, 85, 94, 99, 141, 143; affective, 15; being-for-self and beingfor-other, 54, 56; desire for, 44; surplus of, 73 being-in-the-world, 141 beneficence, 60 benevolence, 13 bestowal, 11–13, 73, 76, 79, 88n55 Bigelow, Pat, 21–24, 29n116 Blanchot, Maurice, 176–178, 184n55 blessedness, 4, 89n78, 111n64, 182. See also happiness Bloechl, Jeffrey, 179 Brentano, Franz, 144 Burns, Michael O’Neill, 24n1, 28n90 Butler, Joseph, 16 care, 17, 46, 82 Caputo, John, 180 Carlisle, Clare, 2–3 Carlsson, Ulrika, 26n50, 59, 66n172 certainty, 32, 35, 142, 179, 191 charity. See love 201



Cherubino, 19 child/children, 39–40, 54–57, 76, 102, 105, 156, 175, 177, 185n56 childhood, 33 choice, xii, 14, 69, 76, 111n54, 120, 125, 166n98, 174 Christendom, 16, 180 Christian, 2, 7, 15, 23, 34, 40–42, 53, 89n78, 124, 170–172, 178, 180; becoming a, ix, 7, 26n30, 190; like for like, 170–171; Socrates as, 35. See also Christianity; love, Christian Christianity, 7, 17, 23, 46, 49–50, 58, 76, 81, 86, 131n51, 163n6, 179–180; as divisive, 52; as life-view, 32; and selflove, 162. See also Christian climax, 84 cognitive sciences, 138 Come, Arnold B., 101 common watermark, xiv, 10, 50, 100, 115–116, 123–127, 129, 132n59, 136, 147, 189 communication, 176; direct, 23, 78; indirect, 21–22, 96, 175 community, 50, 56 compassion, 17–18, 163n4 conatus, 151 consciousness, 22, 41, 48, 60, 76, 87n27, 93, 101, 105, 127, 131n40, 137, 139–144, 172, 182; bestowal as act of, 12; and pleasure, 68, 78; pre-reflective, 72, 75, 87n27, 137–146; of sin, 107; theories of, 139, 145; of unity in marriage, 55. See also selfconsciousness Cordelia, 51, 79, 81 courage, 5–6, 185n68 creativity, 13 Crito, 47 crossed phenomenon, 85–86, 109 culture, 16–18 Danta, Chris, 176–177, 184n55 Da Ponte, Lorenzo, 15 Dasein, 140, 143 death, 7, 88n41, 144, 191; despair and, xv; of father, 40; fear and, 173; love and, 74 deception, 74, 79, 83 Dennett, Daniel, 164n47

Derrida, Jacques, 7, 22, 128, 131n51, 133n83, 141–142, 143, 177 Descartes, René, 2, 140, 143–144, 152–153, 164n47, 164n50 desire, xiii, 13, 33–36, 42, 61, 70–75, 79, 80, 86, 87n27, 97, 118, 130n4, 156–157, 181; and duty, 50; in Plato, 43–47, 63n60; in Spinoza, 4–6 despair, xv, 6, 75, 159, 173, 182, 190–192 determinism, 4, 111n64 Dewey, John, 16 dialectic, 74–75, 128; Hegelian, 59; Kierkegaard and, 9, 21, 34, 37–38, 51, 54, 59, 68, 120, 131n32, 172 difference, 13, 21–22, 50, 127, 141, 185n59; ontological, 143 Diotima, 43, 63n59, 163n1 Don Juan, 70, 76–77, 79–80, 82, 89n79 Dooley, Mark, 93–95, 128 duality/dualism, 50, 55, 73, 120 duty, xiv, 6, 50, 55, 122, 155 Dworkin, Ronald, 130n9 edification, 8, 13, 17, 21, 56, 84, 95, 99, 102, 129, 163n6; of love, xiii. See also upbuilding ego, 24, 82–83, 85, 124, 127, 128–129, 131n50, 132n55, 136, 139, 144, 165n82 egoism, 82, 127–128, 151, 165n82 embodiment, 45, 46, 54–55, 72, 169; Socrates as, 35, 38 emotion(s), 17, 24, 36, 45, 70, 72, 97, 110n27, 155, 157; philosophy of, xii; Spinoza and, 2, 4–5, 25n8, 60, 74, 89n78, 111n64, 112n80 enjoyment, 38, 56, 68, 78–80, 82, 84, 85. See also pleasure Enlightenment, 19 epistemology, 3, 25n7, 45, 48. See also knowledge epoché, 108 equality, 100, 117, 124, 130n9, 132n59 erased phenomenon, 109 eros, x, 33, 41–42, 48–49, 97, 116, 117–119, 130n4, 130n17, 132n77, 185n68; and agape, xiv, 34, 53; in Plato, 44–45, 47. See also love erotic, the, 68, 71–72, 73–74, 76–77, 85; immediate, 17–18, 72–73, 116. See also

Index eros eroticization, 84 erotic reduction, the, xiii, 13–15, 19, 35, 42, 46, 69, 75, 77–85, 115, 117, 122, 131n40, 135, 152–154, 157, 171–173, 179, 181–182, 189–190; the child and, 55, 57; Kierkegaard and, 92–93, 100–109 eternity, 8, 10, 23, 37–38, 77, 88n41, 100, 124, 132n59, 174, 179, 182; of love, xiv, 3, 6, 69, 115–122, 131n40, 135, 155, 187–188, 190 ethical, 4, 14, 40, 52, 55–56, 60, 69, 93, 96, 115, 120, 125; conception of love, 5, 37–38, 67–68; teleological suspension of, 123; theory, x ethical-religious, 6; knowledge, 93 ethics, xii, 38, 123, 126–127, 129; of love, 38, 43, 98, 124, 128, 129, 163n4, 190; practical, 3, 25n8. See also ethical existence, 14–15, 21, 23–24, 32, 39, 44, 51–52, 53, 93, 101, 103, 117, 128, 133n83, 141; love and, 55, 59, 75; Socrates’, 36–37; spheres/stages of, 14, 27n71, 51, 88n44 Evans, C. Stephen, x evil, 59, 105, 112n80, 174, 182 existential/existentialism, x, 2, 6–7, 9, 11, 28n90, 48, 53, 69, 85, 95 face, 42, 44, 57, 84–85, 109, 124, 126, 129, 173, 189 faith, 2, 16, 169–170, 184n50; and love, x, 51, 52, 54, 77, 108, 121–122, 176–178 family, 50, 54–57, 58, 129 fear, xv, 7, 112n71, 173, 184n32, 185n68; and love, xv, 169, 170–175, 177, 178, 179, 182, 188 Ferreira, M. Jamie, x, 14, 151, 185n57 flesh, the, xiv, 53, 56, 74–75, 77–78, 81–82, 84–85, 135, 144; crossing of, 85–86, 169, 174; distinguished from the body, 77 forgiveness, xiv, 92, 104, 131n51, 161; divine, 107; problem of, 105–107; pure, 106; self-, 160, 161 fortitude, 5, 6 Frankfurt, Harry, xi, xiv, 1, 8. See also self-love, Frankfurt on


freedom, 6, 16, 25n8, 69, 76, 89n78, 93, 111n64, 125–126 Freud, Sigmund, 11, 136 friend/friendship, ix, 4–5, 7, 18, 76, 89n78, 116, 128, 148, 191 Furtak, Rick Anthony, x, 133n88 Gadamer, Hans-Georg, 141–142 Gallagher, Shaun, 138, 142, 145, 164n47 Genesis, 184n55 gift, 102, 181–182, 184n55; love as, 73 givenness, 94, 137, 184n55; first-person, 142–145; of love, 22, 94 God, 10, 14, 39–40, 41–42, 46, 51–54, 76, 81, 101–102, 107, 108, 133n78, 184n55, 190; as love, 33–34, 50, 89n78; love of, ix, xiv–xv, 7, 24, 32, 58, 112n71, 169–171, 174–177, 179–183, 185n59, 188, 191–192; in Plato, 43–44; Scheler on, 97–98, 99; self-love and, 136, 151, 153, 159, 162; Spinoza on, 2, 3–4, 13, 74, 89n78, 111n64, 186n82 Goldstein, Rebecca Newberger, 189 good, the, 56, 79–81, 82–83, 91, 106, 151, 166n98, 174, 182–183; and God, 97; in Hegel, 59; in Plato, 37, 43; Spinoza on, 6, 74 Gordon, Jill, 44–47, 185n68 Grøn, Arne, 59, 101 Gurwitsch, Aron, 164n49 Haar, Michel, 140 Hall, Amy Laura, x Hanson, Jeffrey, xi, 92, 94–95, 184n33 happiness, 4, 39–40, 111n64, 179 Hartshorne, M. Holmes, 177, 184n50 hate/hatred, 4–6, 50, 105, 111n64, 175–176; God and, 180–181 heart, xii, 15, 17, 35, 65n153, 86, 91, 96, 98, 104, 127, 160, 173, 178, 190 Hebert, A. G., 118, 130n17 Hegel, G. W. F., xi, xiv, 26n50, 31, 33–34, 37, 42, 48–61, 61n19, 65n168, 66n172, 68, 95, 108, 109n4, 111n58, 115, 120–121, 146, 187. See also dialectic, Hegelian; the good, in Hegel; individuality, Hegel on Heidegger, Martin, xi, 22, 92, 94–96, 106, 108, 110n19, 137, 139–141, 143



hero, 45 history, 38, 41, 141; of ideas, 10; of individual life, 67–68, 121; of love, 97; of philosophy, 6, 103, 136 Hölderlin, Friedrich, 49 Hong, Howard and Edna, 118, 126 hooks, bell, 8, 151, 166n83, 177, 185n56 hope, 16, 54, 160, 161, 174 hospitality, 65n153, 127 Houston, Whitney, 148 Hughes, Carl S., xi, 41–42, 118, 130n4 Husserl, Edmund, xi, 12, 22–23, 92–95, 96, 99, 103, 106, 108, 139, 141 Hyppolite, Jean, 50 idealism, 10, 28n90 immanence, 13, 133n78 immediacy, 22–24, 35, 87n13, 87n27, 115, 142, 146, 155; of love, 53, 60, 68–86, 91, 117, 155, 161, 187–188, 190 imperfection, 17–18, 107, 181, 189 incarnation, 89n78 individual/individuality, 16, 18, 28n99, 33, 43–44, 48, 52, 56–57, 64n132, 67–68, 85, 100, 115, 117, 122, 125, 128, 132n59, 136, 188–189; Hegel on, 51, 54–56, 59–60; Marion on, 78, 80. See also ipseity; self intentionality, 22, 115, 131n40, 143; of love, xiv, 53, 91–109, 121, 135, 147, 155, 161, 187–188 intuition/intuitive, 4, 127, 137, 152 inwardness, 55 ipseity, 74, 78, 140. See also selfhood irony, 8, 9, 31, 33–42, 47, 62n39, 66n172, 109, 131n51, 149, 184n50; defined, 20, 36; of love, xiii, 20–21, 43, 61, 70–71, 189 irrationalism, 2 Isaac, 175–176 Jacob, 151 James, William, 16 Jesus Christ, 32, 74, 106, 108–109, 125, 171, 176 Johannes Climacus, ix, 26n30, 123, 129, 160, 167n129 Johannes the Seducer, 43, 51, 67, 68–69, 78–85, 89n79, 91

Johannes de Silentio, 108, 123, 170, 173, 175–176, 178, 184n46, 184n55 John, the Apostle, 170, 178 joy, 27n77, 79, 83, 85, 89n84, 108, 179, 182, 188 Joyce, James, 21 Judge William, xiv, 38, 51–52, 55, 59, 62n35, 67–69, 82, 115, 120–122, 125–126, 131n32, 131n40 Judaism, 49 justice, 18, 24 Kafka, Franz, 176, 178, 185n63 Kant, Immanuel, 49, 144, 154–155, 157 Kenny, Anthony, 148 Kierkegaard, Michael, 40, 177, 180 Kierkegaard, Søren: authorship, ix–xiii, 6–8, 9, 14, 17, 31, 41, 51, 52, 59, 62n39, 69, 83, 95–96, 103, 120, 149, 190; “The Changelessness of God”, 7, 181–182; The Concept of Anxiety, 85–86, 95–96, 101, 188; The Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates, xi, xiii, 7, 26n50, 31–42, 58, 68–70, 101, 187; Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, ix, 26n30; Either/Or, xi, xiv, 7, 19, 26n50, 37–38, 43, 51, 58–59, 67–71, 76, 78, 86, 87n14, 102, 115, 118, 120, 122, 146, 187; and father, xii, xv; Fear and Trembling, xi, xv, 53, 102, 108, 170, 172, 175, 177, 177–178, 182, 184n50; Johannes Climacus, 146; Journals and Papers, 3; Judge for Yourself!, 94; Letters and Documents, 185n69; The Moment , xi, xv, 170, 179–181, 182; From the Papers of One Still Living, xiii, 11, 32, 41, 187; as phenomenologist, xi, xiii–xiv, 7, 14–15, 21–22, 32, 35, 48, 66n172, 68, 71–72, 91–96, 101–105, 109n4, 150, 162, 178–179; Philosophical Fragments, 160; The Point of View for My Work as an Author, ix, 7, 62n38, 69, 120; Repetition, 102; The Sickness unto Death, 6, 85, 101, 159, 190; Stages on Life’s Way, xi, 37, 51, 52–53, 59, 120, 131n32; Two Ages: The Age of Revolution and the Present Age A

Index Literary Review, 75, 94; Upbuilding Discourses, xi, xiv, 7, 53, 59, 91–92, 101–109, 146, 171, 177, 187; Works of Love, x–xi, xiv–xv, 3, 7, 16, 18, 22–23, 26n29, 36, 38, 40, 52–54, 59–60, 68, 74–77, 81, 83, 84, 92, 94, 96, 98, 99, 102, 104–106, 111n64, 115, 117, 119, 122–125, 127–128, 129, 130n7, 132n77, 137, 146–147, 149–151, 153, 159, 160, 170–175, 177–178, 182, 183n7, 185n57, 185n59, 187, 189, 192. See also dialectic, Kierkegaard and; the erotic reduction, Kierkegaard and; selfhood, Kierkegaard’s view of; selflove, Kierkegaard on kiss, 68, 78, 83–85, 89n91 knowledge, 43, 45–46, 92, 93–95, 106, 125, 141, 191; of evil, 105, 112n80; of God, 3–4, 111n64; objective, 2, 48, 93 Knox, T. M., 55 Krishek, Sharon, x, 77, 147, 151, 176, 177, 184n46 language, 20–24, 127, 141, 149, 157–158, 161, 192 Lennon, John, 171 Levinas, Emmanuel, xii, xiv, 1, 52, 116, 122–129, 130n4, 132n77, 133n87, 188 Lewis, C. S., 73 life-view, xiii, 11, 32, 41, 46, 69, 187 lifeworld, 92–94 Lippitt, John, x, xiv, 108. See also selflove, Lippitt on longing. See desire love: ancient conception of, 97; artist of, xiii, xv, 192; ascent of, 37, 40, 42–44, 48–49, 120, 189; Christian, xiii, 10, 16, 71, 76, 97–98, 116, 118, 130n7, 131n51; commandment to, 40, 59–60, 120, 122, 124, 137, 147, 150–151, 155, 159, 170; companionate, 10, 163n4; courtly, 10; Danish words for, 10, 53, 62n35, 97, 116–118, 121, 124, 126, 128–129, 133n88; disinterested, 17, 27n89, 28n101, 155–157, 166n98; divine, 54, 119, 169, 177, 179–180, 182; erotic, xiii, 43, 76, 81, 116, 118, 121, 149; eye(s) of, 8, 26n33, 79, 91, 104–105, 106; falling in, 135–136;


fruits of, 6, 98, 130, 178; fullness of, 33–34, 36, 41–42, 70, 73–75, 101, 181; Greek words for, 13–14, 33; initiative of, 79–80, 105; marital, ix, xiv, 7, 38, 51, 62n35, 67, 115, 120, 121–122; maternal, 57–58, 65n155, 84, 133n87; neighborly, ix, 7, 16, 52, 76, 77, 89n78, 99, 100, 111n54, 111n64–112n65, 115–117, 122–125, 127, 137, 151, 179; parental, 156, 176; passionate, 10; paternal, xv, 40, 58, 180; pessimism about, 11–12; politics of, xiii, 15–20, 189; preferential and non-preferential, xiv, 57, 73, 76–77, 81, 89n78, 111n54, 116–117, 124, 126–127, 128; primacy of, 13, 25n22, 43, 45, 54, 110n19, 188, 189; pure, 124, 127, 128–129, 131n51, 149; romantic, ix, 7, 10, 62n35, 67, 118, 120–121, 129, 177; as spirit, 17, 33, 43, 149, 171; as substance, 71–78, 117; unity of, ix, xiv–xv, 10, 13–14, 25n22, 35, 44, 52, 59, 71, 73, 76, 111n54, 116–120, 131n51, 190; victory in, 85–86. See also God, love of; self-love loveworld, 92–94 loving reduction. See erotic reduction Luther, Martin, 185n57 Løgstrup, Knud Ejler, 53 MacIntyre, Alasdair, 146 madness, 179, 182 McCartney, Paul, 171 Marion, Jean-Luc, xii, xiii–xiv, 1–2, 8, 12, 13–15, 19, 20, 25n22, 55–56, 71, 74, 75, 77–82, 84–85, 86, 92–93, 94, 97, 103–105, 106, 108, 109n4, 110n19, 119, 121, 125, 131n40, 144, 156, 171, 173, 174, 176, 184n55, 188, 192. See also advance, Marion’s discussion of; individuality, Marion on; self-love, Marion and the impossibility of marriage, 38, 40, 49, 51, 55–56, 59, 67–68, 121, 125 Martel, Yann, 173 memory. See recollection merging, 10 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 141, 142 Merman, the, 176



metaphysics, 45, 48, 88n41, 108, 124, 127, 141, 144, 178–179; Spinoza and, 3, 25n8. See also violence, metaphysics of Minas, Anne C., 107 mineness, 140, 143–144 Mongoven, Ann, 16–17, 28n101 moral philosophy. See ethics morality, 49–50, 163n4. See also ethics Mozart, W. A., 15, 17–20, 27n78, 72 musical, the, 78; erotic, 70–72 Nancy, Jean-Luc, 20 narcissism, 128 Narcissus, 148 natural attitude, 8, 12, 77, 82–83, 88n55, 92, 97, 104–105, 108, 115, 135, 156 naturalism, 10 nature, 3–4, 97 neighbor, 4, 5, 10, 28n99, 40, 52–53, 59–60, 76, 81, 93, 100, 123–125, 129, 157, 174, 189. See also love, neighborly; other, the New Testament, 32, 54, 155, 162; 1 Corinthians, 54, 177; James, 181; 1 John, 50, 170, 178; Matthew, 124; Philippians, 170; Romans, 32 Nielsen, Rasmus, 172 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 9, 11–12, 79, 86, 97, 136 nobility, 4–6, 25n8, 74, 111n64, 112n80 nothingness, 36, 139, 144 Nussbaum, Martha, xi, xiii, 8, 15–20 Nygren, Anders, xiv, 53, 116, 117–119, 130n4, 130n16–130n17, 162 oath, 56 objectivity, 11, 21, 50 obligation, 50, 52. See also duty Okrent, Mark, 140 Olsen, Regine, xii ontological/ontology, 94–95, 101–102, 123, 131n50 onto-theology, 88n41, 108 Orpheus, 79 other, the, xii, 5–6, 10, 18, 23, 24, 26n33, 28n113, 34, 35, 40, 43–44, 46, 49–50, 52, 53–54, 57, 60, 63n66, 73–74, 77–86, 93, 99–100, 105–107, 115, 117, 122–124, 126–129, 131n47, 131n50,

133n78, 133n87, 135, 137, 149, 151, 153–154, 155, 163n4, 189, 190. See also neighbor Ovid, 148 pain, 106 pedagogy, 98 Pascal, Blaise, 95, 110n19 passion(s), 4, 14, 24, 35, 42, 73, 84, 86, 116; spiritualization of, 86 Pattison, George, 26n29, 52, 61n20, 88n41, 101–102, 108, 112n71, 120, 178 pederasty, 33, 63n66 perfection/perfectionism, 18, 38, 43, 69, 99, 104, 105, 107, 136, 163n6, 178, 180, 186n82, 187 personalism, 62n56, 93 personality, 33, 49, 125 Pharisee, 108 phenomenology, 22, 42, 48, 56, 68, 83, 137, 142, 144, 145, 167n134, 173; of love, xi–xii, xiv–xv, 2, 7, 8, 10, 12–15, 17, 24, 31, 39, 46, 48–61, 68, 71, 75, 91–109, 116, 119, 122, 128–129, 135, 137, 146, 154, 155–158, 162, 169, 171, 174, 178–180, 183, 187–189, 191 philosophy, 21, 44, 45–46, 47, 63n69, 83, 95, 137, 144; and love, ix–xi, xiii, 1–3, 7–8, 25n22, 84, 190; materialist, 13, 28n90; of mind, 138; modern, xiii, 2, 25n8 Plato, xi, xiv, 9–10, 21, 24n1, 26n50, 31, 33–34, 36–37, 42–47, 48–49, 51, 61n3, 63n59, 63n69, 73, 98, 112n65, 118, 126, 135, 167n135, 178, 182, 185n68, 187, 189. See also desire, in Plato; eros, in Plato; God, in Plato; the good, in Plato pleasure, 4–5, 51, 68, 77–78, 82–83, 85; essence of, 77. See also enjoyment pluralist/pluralism, 9–10, 13 postmodernism, 22 pragmatist/pragmatism, 9 presence, 94, 141, 144; of love, 68, 188 pride, 160 Priest, Stephen, 139–140, 144 psychological egoism. See egoism psychology/psychological, 1, 97, 173 punishment, 106, 177, 178

Index purity, 81 questioning, 21, 45–46 rational/rationality, 2, 5, 45, 47; love and, 5, 13, 25n22, 179 reason, 3–6, 45, 55, 59–60, 97; sufficient, 76, 102 reciprocity, 19, 55, 68, 70, 73–74, 80, 82–83, 105–106, 126–127, 156, 171, 177 recognition, 50, 59, 68 recollection, 47 redoubling, 40, 62n44, 124–125 reflection, 22–23, 24, 138, 140–141, 145 religion, 6; Christian, 49–50; of love, 39, 160; Eastern, 171–172; philosophy of, xii religious, 7, 9, 14–15, 32, 39, 52–53, 62n39, 120, 129, 172; and the aesthetic, xiii; conception of love, 4, 37. See also ethical-religious repetition, 23 resignation, 38 responsibility, xiv, 57, 122–123, 126–127, 129 Romantic/Romanticism, 9, 41 Ricoeur, Paul, 141, 142 sacred, 44, 94 sacrifice, 40, 129, 175, 177, 184n55 salvation, 41, 89n78, 98, 118, 128, 179 Samaritan, 125 Sarah, 176 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 11, 92, 132n55, 136, 139–141, 144 saturated phenomenon, 13, 22, 181 Scheler, Max, xii, xiv, 12, 15, 62n56, 77, 92–99, 103, 108, 164n50, 188. See also God, Scheler on; spirit, in Scheler Schlegel, Friedrich, 38–39 Schleiermacher, Friedrich, 37 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 11, 136, 163n4 science, 10, 42, 106; of love, 190–191 seducer, xiv, 51, 77, 78–83. See also Johannes the Seducer seduction, 75, 77–83, 126 self, xiv, 2, 6, 24, 34, 40, 49–50, 52, 53–55, 64n132, 72, 74–75, 78–79, 82–83, 94,


117, 123–125, 127, 131n47, 132n55, 133n78, 135–137, 144, 164n50, 167n129, 179, 190; self-actualization, 53; self-alienation, 50; authentic, 58, 159; self-awareness, 138, 140–141, 143–144; self-consciousness, 139–140, 142, 143, 144; self-contentment, 157, 162, 167n122; self-denial, 53, 81, 100, 116, 131n51, 155, 160, 172; selfesteem, 151, 157, 162, 166n83, 167n122; etymology of, 145; selfindulgence, 157; self-interest, 17, 27n89; self-knowledge, 46; minimalist notion of, 138–139, 142–145; selfrealization, 50; self-renunciation, 129, 149, 153, 192; self-regard, 35, 155, 157; self-respect, 151, 161–162; sacrifice of, 40; self-satisfaction, 151, 157 selfhood, xiv, 49, 51–52, 54, 58, 72, 125, 137; aporia of, 145; Kierkegaard’s view of, 146–147; narrative, 146, 147; phenomenology of, 137–147. See also ipseity; self selfishness, 81–82, 151, 154 self-love, x, xiv–xv, 24, 27n89, 34, 40, 53–54, 57–58, 64n132, 65n155, 76, 81, 99, 107, 109, 112n91, 113n99, 119, 124, 135–138, 147, 166n83, 188; ambiguity of, 147–151; Frankfurt on, 148, 154–160, 161, 167n122; Kierkegaard on, 149–151, 160–162; Lippitt on, 137, 147, 158, 160–162, 163n8, 167n139; Marion and the impossibility of, 148, 152–154, 158, 160–161; transparency of, 158, 159. See also God, self-love and senses, 47 sensuality/sensuousness, 38, 68, 70–74, 76–78, 81, 85–86, 87n27, 97, 118, 121 sex/sexuality, 9, 14, 15, 55, 71, 84–86 Sganarelle, 79–80 Shestov, Lev, 94–95 silence, 1, 8, 22, 24, 105, 175–178, 182 Silenus, 180 sin(s), xiv, 7, 18, 81, 91–92, 95, 104–109, 165n56, 177, 179, 188, 190 Singer, Irving, xi, xiii, 8–13, 15, 20–21, 31, 47, 120, 163n4, 189, 190



skepticism, 11 sociology, 56 Socrates, xiv, 10, 21, 31, 33–38, 42–47, 48, 51, 61n3, 61n20, 63n59–63n60, 63n67, 98, 135, 178, 180, 187, 189. See also Christian, Socrates as; embodiment, Socrates as; existence, Socrates’ solidarity, 99 Solomon Robert, 132n52 soteriology, 118, 119. See also salvation sound-mindedness, 162, 167n135 Spinoza, Baruch, xi, xiii, 2–6, 12–13, 25n8, 60, 74, 89n78, 111n64, 112n80, 115, 121, 131n40, 136, 151, 163n6, 165n82, 167n122, 174, 181, 186n82; definition(s) of love, 2, 4, 5. See also desire, in Spinoza; emotion(s), Spinoza and; God, Spinoza on; the good, Spinoza on; metaphysics, Spinoza and spirit, 50, 58, 59, 66n172, 68, 81, 85–86, 118, 125, 135; absolute, 48–49; in Scheler, 96–97. See also love, as spirit state, the, 60 Steinbeck, John, 176 Stesichorus, 43 Stewart, Jon, 58–59, 61n19, 68, 120 Stoic/Stoicism, x, 32 Stokes, Patrick, 139 subjectivity, 123, 128–129, 133n83, 137–138, 141–142 suffering, 61n20, 85, 87n13, 163n4, 176 surplus. See love, fullness of Søltoft, Pia, xiv, 71–74, 76–77, 158–159, 162 Taylor, Mark C., 49–54, 58 time, 22, 38, 68, 88n41, 121–122. See also eternity Tolstoy, Leo, 9 theological, x, 15, 41–42, 46, 52, 54, 58, 71, 74, 86, 89n78, 95, 117–119, 130n7, 162, 180–181, 191 theology, 1, 172, 185n57; and phenomenology, 101–102, 112n71. See also onto-theology Thor, 72

transcendence, 10, 12–13, 37, 42–43, 52, 63n68, 85, 99, 124, 127, 133n78 trust, 55, 160, 161 truth, 18, 23, 34, 46, 63n67, 95, 98, 110n19, 123, 127, 129, 138; of irony, 41 unification, 47, 49–50. See also merging upbilding, 17, 56–57, 62n39, 83, 99, 104, 136. See also edification value, 11–13, 24, 28n99, 77, 79, 88n55, 93, 96–97, 99–100, 117, 124, 130n17, 189 Victor Eremita, 69, 78–79, 146–147, 167n129 Vigilius Haufniensis, 85, 188 virtue(s), 16, 38, 167n135; of love, 122, 163n4 violence, 123, 125, 128, 129, 176, 185n56; metaphysics of, 52, 131n50, 172 von Hildebrand, Dietrich, xii, xiv, 12, 15, 92–94, 96, 99, 108, 188 Welz, Claudia, 59, 65n168, 92, 109n4 West, Cornel, 16 West, David, 48, 68, 70 Whitehead, Alfred North, 44 wholeheartedness, 157. See also heart will, the, 80, 82, 125–126, 155, 166n98, 181, 186n82, 192 world, 4, 19, 46, 86, 94, 99, 100, 105, 108, 109n13, 112n65, 126, 128, 141, 145, 172, 181; of actuality, 18, 28n101; erotic, 44, 46–47; irony and, 41–42; love and, 2, 8, 11, 13, 39; physical, 12, 47, 78, 97, 153; Western, 47. See also lifeworld; loveworld worldliness, 62n39 writing, 172; on love, xiii, 20–24 Xenophon, 33 Zahavi, Dan, 138–139, 141–145 Žižek, Slavoj, 16 Øverenget, Einar, 140, 144

About the Author

Michael Strawser is chair of the Department of Philosophy and associate professor of philosophy at the University of Central Florida. His primary philosophical interests and research areas are the philosophy of love, ethics, and the history of modern and contemporary philosophy with emphasis on Søren Kierkegaard, Baruch Spinoza, and the Continental tradition. He has previously published Both/And: Reading Kierkegaard from Irony to Edification and Asking Good Questions: Case Studies in Ethics and Critical Thinking (with Nancy Stanlick).