On Wickedness and Wit; Beginning Either/Or

I ventured into Either/Or tonight.  Despite its sensational history I was not particularly looking forward to it.  I read the first volume a few years back and don’t have fond memories of it.  I forgot, however, the aphorisms that begin the first volume which is attributed to A (who writes in an aesthetic mode) as opposed to B who writes in a ethical mode in the second volume.  Here are two quotes,

Let others complain that the age is wicked; my complaint is that it is paltry; for it lacks passion.  Men’s thoughts are thin and flimsy like lace, they are themselves pitiable like the lacemakers.  The thoughts of their hearts are to paltry to sinful.  For a worm it might be regarded as a sin to harbour such thoughts, but not for a being made in the image of God.  Their lusts are dull and sluggish, their passions sleepy. . . . This is the reason my soul always turns back to the Old Testament and to Shakespeare.  I feel that those who speak there are at least human beings: they hate, they love, they murder their enemies, and curse their descendants throughout all generations, they sin.

And later,

It happened that a fire broke out backstage in a theater.  The clown came out to inform the public.  They thought it was a jest and applauded.  He repeated his warning, they shouted even louder.  So I think the world will come to an end amid general applause from all the wits, who believe that it is a joke.

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4 comments on “On Wickedness and Wit; Beginning Either/Or

  1. I’m sympathetic with your lack of fond memories! I have been unsuccessful in my two attempts to read Either/Or vol I (never having been ‘assigned’ the task by anyone but myself) but I did read vol II with good result a few years ago (also self-assigned).

    I’m reading Schleiermacher’s dogmatics (1831) and he mentions an ‘aesthetic’ side of religion in an uncomplimentary way. several years ago I made a study of the posthumous auction lists for SK’s personal library — 8 vols of Schleiermacher (including the dogmatics – and a Danish translation of his sermons). But of course there are others…

  2. I am hoping that coming hot on the heels of his thesis this will be a more meaningful read. I am also reading a little bit of biographical material. So far this has been helping the context of this volume.
    K. seems to have a kept a broadly positive view of Schleiermacher. I remember one footnote lamenting how philosophers chose Hegel over Schleiemacher. And of course K.’s own relationship to the ‘aesthetic’ is problematic depending on how you want to read his over-arching authorship.

  3. SK also possessed two complete sets of Plato’s works, one in Latin and one in Deutsche (almost certainly the translation by Schleiermacher with short introductions) which may have aided him in the dissertation.

    Those Schelling lecture notes of earlier this week I found historically interesting when I read them – SK must have gone to Berlin to hear old Schelling with high expectations (which appeared not to have been met as I recall). Those are the same lectures which were called ‘an epoch’ by Engels (who also attended) I think because he viewed them as the last gasp of the idealistic defense of religion. I have 10 of the lectures in the Richey/Zisselsberger translation (2007) but have not yet been able to break into them with any real relish (I bought a used copy knowing they were of historical interest).

  4. The notes did become more interesting as I got into them. The biggest problem was my historical and conceptual limitations in trying to make sense of what were notes and so unconcerned with having to explain anything fundamentally.

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