The Ethics of Authorship: Communication, Seduction, and Death in Hegel and Kierkegaard

The Ethics of Authorship: Communication, Seduction, and Death in Hegel and Kierkegaard

Daniel Berthold
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 160
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Ethics of Authorship: Communication, Seduction, and Death in Hegel and Kierkegaard
    Book Description:

    This is a book about the ethics of authorship. Most directly, it explores different conceptualizations of the responsibilities of the author to the reader. But it also engages the question of what styles of authorship allow these responsibilities to be met. Style itself is an ethical issue, since the relation between the writing subject and the reader--and the dynamics of authority and influence, of gift giving and friendship in this relation--have as much to do with how one writes as what one says.The two writers who serve as the main subjects for this work, the German idealist philosopher G. W. F. Hegel and the Danish Christian existentialist Sren Kierkegaard, invite us to confront particularly challenging questions about the ethics of authorship. Each in his own way explores styles of authorship that employ a variety of strategies of seduction in order to entice the reader into his narratives, strategies that at least on the surface appear to be fundamentally manipulative and unethical. Further, both seek to enact their own deaths as authors, effectively disappearing as reliable guides for the reader. That might also seem to be ethically irresponsible, an abandonment of the reader, who has been seduced only to be deserted.This is the first work to undertake a sustained questioning of Kierkegaard's central distinction between his own indirectstyle of communication and the (purportedly) directstyle of Hegel's philosophy. Hegel was in fact a much more subtle practitioner of style than Kierkegaard represents him as being, indeed, a practitioner whose style is in the service of an ambitious reconceptualization of the ethics of authorship. As for Kierkegaard, his own indirect style raises a whole series of ethical questions about how the reader is imagined in relation to the author. There is finally an either/or between Hegel and Kierkegaard, just not the one Kierkegaard proposes as between an author devoid of ethics and one who makes possible a true ethics of authorship. Rather, the either/or is between two competing practices of authorship, one daunting with the cadences of a highly technical style, the other delightful for its elegance and playfulness--but both powerful experiments in the ethics of style.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4890-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Rorschach Tests
    (pp. 1-13)

    WHAT THE Greek comic playwright Aristophanes did for Socrates, the Danish Christian humorist (as he often called himself) Søren Kierkegaard did for Hegel. With delectably malicious wit, these master tormentors reduced their famous elders to the status of half-dangerous, half-ridiculous characters in a tragicomedy. Socrates, who was present at the performance of Aristophanes’Clouds— in which, among other things, he is described as a sophistical (“logic-chopping,” “hair-splitting,” “tongue-wrestling”) windbag who seeks to replace the old gods (“Zeus is dead!”) with the Clouds, whose ethereality and mistiness perfectly symbolize the philosopher’s own vaporous thoughts¹—is reported to have stood up in...

  6. 1. A Question of Style
    (pp. 14-38)

    KIERKEGAARD DEFINES his authorship in a negative space in relation to Hegel, the Great Philosopher, who serves as the ground against which the figure of Kierkegaard emerges and takes on his own identity. At the heart of this project of identity formation through contrast is the distinction Kierkegaard draws between styles of authorship. Hegel, we have seen, philosophizes with a megaphone—a “giant speaking trumpet”—perfecting the authoritarian voice of the Father, laying down the Law of objective truth for all to hear (and obey). Kierkegaard speaks in a whisper, with a voice so soft that it disappears into silence,...

  7. 2. Live or Tell
    (pp. 39-63)

    KIERKEGAARD MOST OFTEN represents his difference from Hegel in terms of the contrast between action and thinking about action, existing and contemplating existence, living and philosophizing about living. “In the objective sense,” Kierkegaard’s pseudonym Johannes Climacus writes, “thought is understood as being pure thought, . . . [which] has no relation to the existing subject; and while [it is difficult to know] how the existing subject slips into this . . . pure abstraction, . . . it is certain that the existing subjectivity tends more and more to evaporate’’ (CUP112).

    Crucial to Kierkegaard’s depiction of this contrast between...

  8. 3. Kierkegaard’s Seductions
    (pp. 64-84)

    IN 1843, at the age of twenty-nine, Søren Kierkegaard publishedEither/Or,a nearly eight-hundred-page book (the first of six published in 1843) written largely during a several-month visit to Berlin where he had ensconced himself to escape the complications of an impossible love affair. The work was published pseudonymously, “edited” by Victor Eremita, and consists of two volumes of papers discovered accidentally by Victor in the secret drawer of a desk he had bought at auction, the first volume by an aesthete (“A”), the second by an ethicist (“B,” Judge William). The last and longest of the eight entries of...

  9. 4. Hegel’s Seductions
    (pp. 85-100)

    WHETHER WE THINK of Kierkegaard’s authorship as seductive in the sense of eroticizing the reader so as to devour her or as an emancipation of the reader into autonomy—the two readings we considered at the close of Chapter 3—there can be no doubt that his authorship undertakes an aesthetically and ethically sophisticated project of seduction. Hegel, though, is alternatively portrayed by Kierkegaard as the most boorish and superficial sort of seducer and as the least seductive author of all.

    We noted in Chapter 2, in the context of Kierkegaard’s depiction of Hegel’s “system” as a form of extraterrestrialism—...

  10. 5. Talking Cures
    (pp. 101-127)

    FRANZ ANTON MESMER, the early pioneer of hypnotism and animal magnetism, claimed that he once experimented for three months with thinking without words. In Chapter 2 we saw that Sartre’s Roquentin conducted a similar experiment in the garden: He “thought without words,onthings,withthings.” Roquentin, though, however much he yearned to abandon words so as to “touch the thing” in its sheer rawness or “facticity,” realized that he had absolutely no comprehension of what he experienced in the garden, and went back to his hotel to write. As for Mesmer, his experiment led him into a state of...

  11. 6. A Penchant for Disguise: The Death (and Rebirth) of the Author in Kierkegaard and Nietzsche
    (pp. 128-157)

    ON OCTOBER 2, 1855, at the age of forty-two, Søren Kierkegaard, returning from the bank with the last installment of his inheritance, collapsed on the street in Copenhagen. He was brought to Frederick’s hospital, paralyzed, where he refused medical attention: “The doctors do not understand my illness,” he told a childhood friend; “it is psychical, and now they want to treat it in the usual medical fashion.”¹ He died forty days later.

    Some three and a half decades later, on January 8, 1889, at the age of forty-five, Friedrich Nietzsche collapsed on the street in Turin, after throwing his arms...

  12. 7. Passing Over: The Death of the Author in Hegel
    (pp. 158-179)

    SURELY NO MAJOR PHILOSOPHER has been as criticized, scorned, lampooned, dismissed, dismantled, and deconstructed as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Already in 1819, during the height of Hegel’s fame, Arthur Schopenhauer was writing in hisWorld as Will and Representationthat “the greatest effrontery in serving up sheer nonsense, in scrabbling together senseless and maddening webs of words, such as had previously been heard only in madhouses, [has] finally appeared in Hegel.”¹ Later Schopenhauer described Hegel as “a commonplace, inane, loathsome, repulsive and ignorant charlatan, who with unparalleled effrontery compiled a system of crazy nonsense that . . . [has] completely...

  13. Conclusion: The Melancholy of Having Finished
    (pp. 180-182)

    AT THE END OF Nietzsche’sBeyond Good and Evil(or rather the provisional end: Nietzsche then adds an “Aftersong,” the poem “From High Mountains”), he expresses his melancholy at having finished.

    Alas, what are you after all, my written and painted thoughts! It was not long ago that you were still so colorful, young, and malicious . . .—and now? You have already taken off your novelty, . . . [you] already look so immortal, so pathetically decent, so dull! And has it ever been different? What things do we copy, writing and painting, . . . we immortalizers...

  14. Aftersong: From Low Down
    (pp. 183-184)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 185-208)
    (pp. 209-222)
    (pp. 223-226)
    (pp. 227-232)