Kierkegaard’s moral phenomenology: When ethical consistency becomes ethical evasion

Even though ethics is included as one of the fundamental life perspectives in his famous three-stage theory of human development — aesthetic, ethical, religious — the nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard never developed an ethical theory. In fact, in one of his journal entries, Kierkegaard implies that there are only two stages: the religious and the aesthetic. In other words, for Kierkegaard, what we take to be “the ethical” collapses into the aesthetic, a life perspective that has happiness and self-fulfilment as its god-terms, in contrast to faith and sin, the poles that mark out the religious standpoint.

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