Kierkegaard’s Stages of Subjective Response to Absurdity

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Kierkegaard’s Stages of Subjective Response to Absurdity

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was a great Danish philosopher who attempted to understand what motivates a person to make the decisions they do throughout their life. His work was based on the idea that the human condition is objectively “absurd”, and that “truth is not to be found in objectivity, but in subjectivity, or passionate commitment to an idea” (236). Human nature seeks for meaning of existence, but objectively this is impossible to comprehend become of the complex and immeasurable answer to such a contemplation. Kierkegaard believed that meaning could only be found through one’s personal development and search for a uniquely subjective meaning of existence. He categorized three types of subjective responses to this absurd condition, being aesthetic, ethical, and religious. These three responses represent stages of life that a person must go through to reach a point where they are most connected with their true identity, represented with a connection with a higher power in the religious stage. Before a person can reach this point, they must go through the other stages in succession to build and develop their subjective meaning of life out of the innately absurd condition. The first stage of life that a person goes through is the aesthetic phase, defined by an overwhelming desire to fulfill one’s own self interests. In the aesthetic phase, Kierkegaard describes the decision-making process being based on the immediate, positive repercussions of one’s actions. For example, a young girl, following “the choice of her heart” is in the aesthetic phase because her choices are made based on the feelings she has in the moment (239). She weighs the direct pleasure that each decision will bring her and makes her choice according to what will be most rewarding at that time. Her decisions are not made with…...

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