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{{#invoke:Hatnote|hatnote}} {{#invoke:Infobox|infobox}} Either/Or (Danish: Enten – Eller) is the first published work of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Appearing in two volumes in 1843 under the pseudonymous authorship of Victor Eremita (Latin for "victorious hermit") it outlines a theory of human development in which consciousness progresses from an essentially hedonistic, aesthetic mode to one characterized by ethical imperatives arising from the maturing of human conscience.

Either/Or portrays two life views, one consciously hedonistic, the other based on ethical duty and responsibility. Each life view is written and represented by a fictional pseudonymous author, with the prose of the work reflecting and depending on the life view being discussed. For example, the aesthetic life view is written in short essay form, with poetic imagery and allusions, discussing aesthetic topics such as music, seduction, drama, and beauty. The ethical life view is written as two long letters, with a more argumentative and restrained prose, discussing moral responsibility, critical reflection, and marriage.<ref name=Essential>Kierkegaard, Søren. The Essential Kierkegaard, edited by Howard and Edna Hong. Princeton, ISBN 0-691-01940-1</ref> The views of the book are not neatly summarized, but are expressed as lived experiences embodied by the pseudonymous authors. The book's central concern is the primal question asked by Aristotle, "How should we live?"<ref name=Warburton>Warburton, Nigel. Philosophy: The Classics, 2nd edition. Routledge, ISBN 0-415-23998-2</ref> His book was certainly informed by Epictetus; "Consider first, man, what the matter is, and what your own nature is able to bear. If you would be a wrestler, consider your shoulders, your back, your thighs; for different persons are made for different things. Do you think that you can act as you do and be a philosopher, that you can eat, drink, be angry, be discontented, as you are now? You must watch, you must labor, you must get the better of certain appetites, must quit your acquaintances, be despised by your servant, be laughed at by those you meet; come off worse than others in everything—in offices, in honors, before tribunals. When you have fully considered all these things, approach, if you please—that is, if, by parting with them, you have a mind to purchase serenity, freedom, and tranquillity. If not, do not come hither; do not, like children, be now a philosopher, then a publican, then an orator, and then one of Caesar’s officers. These things are not consistent. You must be one man, either good or bad. You must cultivate either your own reason or else externals; apply yourself either to things within or without you—that is, be either a philosopher or one of the mob."<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> His motto comes from Plutarch, "The deceived is wiser than one not deceived.”<ref>Søren Kierkegaard, Judge William, Stages on Life's Way p. 88, 119-120 Hong</ref>

The aesthetic is the personal, subjective realm of existence, where an individual lives and extracts pleasure from life only for his or her own sake. In this realm, one has the possibility of the highest as well as the lowest. The ethical, on the other hand, is the civic realm of existence, where one's value and identity are judged and at times superseded by the objective world. In simple terms, one can choose either to remain oblivious to all that goes on in the world, or to become involved. More specifically, the ethic realm starts with a conscious effort to choose one's life, with a choice to choose. Either way, however, an individual can go too far in these realms and lose sight of his or her true self. Only faith can rescue the individual from these two opposing realms. Either/Or concludes with a brief sermon hinting at the nature of the religious sphere of existence, which Kierkegaard spent most of his publishing career expounding upon. Ultimately, Kierkegaard's challenge is for the reader to "discover a second face hidden behind the one you see"<ref>Either/Or Part I, Swenson, p. 172-173, Goethe with Special Consideration of His Philosophy by Paul Cairus, 1915 p. 223</ref> in him/herself first, and then in others. Johann Goethe said the same.
The Middle Ages are altogether impregnated with the idea of representation, partly conscious, partly unconscious; the total is represented by the single individual, yet in such a way that it is only a single aspect which is determined as totality, and which now appears in a single individual, who is because of this, both more and less than an individual. By the side of this individual there stands another individual, who, likewise, totally represents another aspect of life’s content, such as the knight and the scholastic, the ecclesiastic and the layman. Either/Or Part I p. 86-87 Swenson
  • Goethe's poem

Life I never can divide, ... Inner and outer together you see. ... Whole to all I must abide, ... Otherwise I cannot be. ...Always I have only writ ... What I feel and mean to say. ... Thus, my friends, although I split, ... Yet remain I one alway.</blockquote>


Either/Or sections
Intro  Historical context  Structure  Either  Or  Discourses and sequel  Themes  Interpretation  Reception  References  External links  

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