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The Life of the Aesthete

December 24, 2010

I’m sat by the fire with a nice glass of whisky and a good book. It has to be admitted that the aesthetic life is ok…

In Either/Or, Kierkergaard’s pseudonymous author “A” says that there are 3 stages of desire in the life of the aesthete:

  1. Dreaming: We dream of an ideal, the perfect form of… whatever it is we desire.
  2. Seeking: We chase after multiple instances of what we take to be this ideal.
  3. Desiring: The unity of the first two stages, “desire as a principle”. “In particular, desire has it’s absolute object, it desires the particular absolutely.”

I think we can probably all recognise the first two stages. How would we recognise the third? It is the ideal of desire itself.

I’m curious to know how Kierkergaard develops the idea of the aesthete in his other works. The aesthete lives life for himself, for the moment, for pleasure. The first half of Either/Or is written from the perspective of just such a person. An interesting metaphor is provided. The aesthete is like a sun around whom others orbit. We see them only in the light of their relationships with the aesthete – the dark sides of the planets are a mystery. For the aesthete this isn’t a problem, but for someone looking into their life from the outside it shows just how empty the relationships are.

Maybe it’s not such a good life after all…

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