Stages on Life's Way : Kierkegaard's Writings, Vol 11
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Stages on Life's Way, the sequel to Either/Or, is an intensely poetic example of Kierkegaard's vision of the three stages, or spheres, of existence: the esthetic, the ethical, and the religious. With characteristic love for mystification, he presents the work as a bundle of documents fallen by chance into the hands of "Hilarius Bookbinder," who prepared them for printing. The book begins with a banquet scene patterned on Plato's Symposium. (George Brandes maintained that "one must recognize with amazement that it holds its own in this comparison.") Next is a discourse by "Judge William" in praise of marriage "in answer to objections." The remainder of the volume, almost two-thirds of the whole, is the diary of a young man, discovered by "Frater Taciturnus," who was deeply in love but felt compelled to break his engagement. The work closes with a letter to the reader from Taciturnus on the three "existence-spheres" represented by the three parts of the book.
Stages on Life's Way not only repeats themes, characters, and pseudonymous authors of the earlier works but also goes beyond them and points to further development of central ideas in Concluding Unscientific Postscript.
regard to the bookkeeper the poor woman is not so ready to envy him or to be dejected by his misery or to be dismayed by the public-welfare tax [Fattigskat], which the poor [Fattige] do not pay in money but expiate with bent backs and humiliated souls, for she probably felt that her honorable and noble benefactor (this, of course, is the poor people’s expression) was more unfortunate than she—she who received from the bookkeeper the money she needed. 197But it was not merely to have an
marriage? Indeed, it is like a tale of seduction. Do I, then, want to seduce her? What a loathsome notion! And is there not a still higher kind of seduction, worse than that of lust? She says she has never felt happier than she does now; she cares about nothing but her ecstasy. Is it love on my part to behold such a misrelation? And I am convinced that I am inclosingly reserved. Indeed, I must say I have come to see that my practice can lead to my being allowed to conceal my inclosed reserve. But
terrible? If the milk in the mother’s breast flowed in abundance but there was no infant, if the wasted milk was as priceless as Juno’s milk, after which the Milky Way is named32—ah, how sad! So also with a man whose sympathy is not allowed to see a wife burst into leaf like the tree33 planted within the blessed hedgerow of sympathy, is not permitted to see the tree blossom and bear its fruit, which ripens under the solicitude of sympathy! How unfortunate the man who does not have this expression
lost her swan’s wings and now sits there abandoned, vainly, despite all her efforts, trying to fly.51 He has lost the immediacy that carries a person through life, the immediacy without which falling in love is impossible, the immediacy, continually presupposed, that has continually taken him a little further; he is excluded from the benevolence of immediacy, for which one cannot really manage to give thanks since the benevolence always hides itself. Just as it is sad to see the misery of that
to become an insipid babbler of words or a birthday poet but an incorruptible little humming of quiet joy. This substance of the soul gains its only real opportunity to disclose itself in marriage, which has at its disposal the cornucopia of tasks, the best gift one receives on the wedding day. Even if the beloved, just to delight the one for whom she would sacrifice [VI 152] her life, since there is no opportunity for a greater proof, demonstrates it equally well in lesser ways, even if she