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Chapter 12 - Illusions of Ethical Independence

The “Last Word” in Either/Or

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 November 2023

Ryan S. Kemp
Affiliation:
Wheaton College, Illinois
Walter Wietzke
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin, River Falls
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Summary

What are we to make of the sermon at the end of Either/Or? How does it stand in relation to the book’s preceding presentations of aesthetic and ethical life? Why is it presented under the title, “Ultimatum”? This chapter takes up these questions by showing how the sermon, and the fictional Jutland priest to whom it is attributed, serve to represent a certain development within ethical subjectivity. On the reading I develop, the sermon represents, namely, a way of trying to sustain a stance of participation in ethical life, in the face of experiences of human powerlessness and exposure to tragedy, without despair but also without succumbing to illusions of ethical independence. So understood, the sermon offers a perspective that, while it incorporates elements of both, provides a third alternative to the tragic outlook of “A” in Either/Or’s Volume 1 and the letters of Judge William in Volume 2.

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Kierkegaard's Either/Or
A Critical Guide
, pp. 204 - 220
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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