By John Lippitt
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Additional resources for Humour and Irony in Kierkegaard’s Thought
In a passage strikingly similar to the point my above examples illustrate, Climacus writes: admiration can be very legitimate with regard to differences, but it is a total misunderstanding with regard to the universal. That one person can swim the channel … one can admire that si placet [if you please]. , then admiration is a deceptive relation or can easily become that. What is great with regard to the universal must therefore not be presented as an object for admiration, but as a requirement.
One who understands the ethical ethically – that is, is motivated by the ethical for its own sake – will see this. Though there is much discussion of how the apparently simple can easily become difficult (CUP 165), the difficulty here is existential, not intellectual, and so intellectual virtues are no advantage. Climacus spends many pages attempting to make this point clear through a series of examples. The aim is to show that, from the ethical–religious and existential point of view that matters, we – his readers; the intellectually inclined; those who would tend to place ourselves in the category of the ‘wise’ as opposed to the ‘simple’ – need to be brought to see that, on issues such as death, immortality, gratitude to God, and marriage, we should resist our intellectual inclinations to think about these issues in abstract terms and, learning the lesson of Illusion and Satire: Climacus as Satirist 25 the previous pages, acknowledge them as questions which need to be engaged on a first-person level.
7 Cavell, who finds essentially this same idea in Emerson, as well as in Thoreau, reads the former as saying not that there is ‘one unattained/attainable self we repetitively never arrive at, but rather that “having” “a” self is a process of moving to, and from, nexts’ (CHU 12). ’8 Compare all of this to at least one dimension of the idea, expressed in The Sickness Unto Death and elsewhere, that the self ‘is a relation that relates itself to itself’ (SUD 13). Related to this is the idea that the attainment of genuine selfhood is connected with maintaining a relationship to an exemplary other.