D. Anthony Storm's Commentary on Kierkegaard

Kierkegaard's Authorial Method

I: Kierkegaard's Dual Authorship

Kierkegaard's literary output, as well as his method of composition, is unique. He conceived of a plan whereby he would publish philosophical works under pseudonyms, while at the same time publishing overtly religious works under his own name. This plan, which was concretized rather early on, was at first simply a need to expectorate—to use Kierkegaardian language—to put to paper his abundant and rich thoughts. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the philosophical works gained some measure of popularity while the religious works received scant attention. In later years, when Kierkegaard wrote on his own career of writing, he would lament this fact, and defend himself against the charge that he became a religious author later. In his journals he records the following.

I began with Either/Or and two upbuilding discourses; now it ends, after the whole upbuilding series—with a little esthetic essay [The Crisis]. It expresses: that it was the upbuilding, the religious, that should advance, and that now the esthetic has been traversed; they are inversely related, or it is something of an inverse confrontation, to show that the writer was not an esthetic author who in the course of time grew older and for that reason became religious (Journals, IX A 227).

In 1843 Kierkegaard began his pseudonymous authorship on philosophical and theological subjects. His purpose for the pseudonyms was mainly to undermine the Hegelian "system" and an uncritical and dispassionate view of one's relationship with God. Kierkegaard considered Either/Or to mark the true beginning of his authorship. This authorship ended in 1846 with the publication of Concluding Unscientific Postscript. This was a lengthy work that concretized Kierkegaard's notions of the importance of the individual and the subjective nature of truth, and also further elaborated on the spheres of existence (see A Primer on Kierkegaardian Motifs for more on these themes). Appended to this work was a public declaration of his pseudonyms. But well before the year was over Kierkegaard returned to writing. What was his "concluding" work became a "turning point", or as he would later call it, the beginning of his "second authorship".

Kierkegaard's Dual Authorship
Pseudonymous Works Signed Works
February 20, 1843
May 16, 1843
Two Upbuilding Discourses
October 16, 1843
Fear and Trembling and Repetition
October 16, 1843
Three Upbuilding Discourses
December 6, 1843
Four Upbuilding Discourses
June 13, 1844
Philosophical Fragments
June 17, 1844
The Concept of Anxiety and Prefaces
March 5, 1844
Two Upbuilding Discourses
June 8, 1844
Three Upbuilding Discourses
August 31, 1844
Four Upbuilding Discourses
April 30, 1845
Stages On Life's Way
April 29, 1845
Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions
February 27, 1846
Concluding Unscientific Postscript
Completed in 1847
Two Minor Ethical-Religious Essays
March 13, 1847
Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits
July 24-27, 1848
The Crisis
April 26, 1848
Christian Discourses
May 14, 1849
Either/Or (2nd edition)
May 14, 1849
The Lily of the Field, The Bird of the Air

In his Point of View for My Work as an Author Kierkegaard stresses the twofold nature of his authorship, and the pivotal place of Concluding Unscientific Postscript.

The first group of writings represents esthetic productivity, the last group is exclusively religious: between them, as the turning-point lies the Concluding Postscript. This work concerns itself with and sets 'the Problem', which is the problem of the whole authorship: how to become a Christian.... The Concluding Postscript is not an esthetic work, but neither is it in the strictest sense religious (p. 13).

This two-fold nature becomes especially apparent in the case of Stages on Life's Way and Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, published one day apart. The former work posits the three stages, or spheres of existence: the esthetic, the ethical and the religious. The discourses have a correspondence with this philosophical work, since each of the three discourses represents the three stages. "On the Occasion of a Confession" refers to the past, and hence participates with the concept of recollection. The first portion of Stages On Life's Way is introduced with an essay on recollection, which relates to the past, and specifically to Plato's theory of recollection, which is an aspect of detached esthetics. "On the Occasion of a Wedding" involves commitment to the ethical future. "At a Graveside" corresponds to "Guilty?"/"Not guilty?", and relates to the religious since it is on the end (goal, purpose) of life.

In later years Kierkegaard became more interested in expressing his writing methodology. He wrote three works on his authorship: The Point of View for My Work as an Author, The Single Individual and On My Work as an Author. The latter is the shortest, and was the only work of the three published in his lifetime, since Kierkegaard thought the others might be misunderstood.

II: Kierkegaard's Authorial Dialectic

A: Polyonymity

Kierkegaard called his own method of writing indirect discourse. Like Plato, who wrote dialogues without ever directly addressing his reader, Kierkegaard utilized a variety of narrative viewpoints, but in an astonishing manner. Many of his philosophical and theological works, excepting the devotional discourses mentioned above and a few polemical, anti-ecclesiastical tracts, were written pseudonymously. Each pseudonym functions from a different philosophical platform. Whereas Plato engaged different voices in a dialogue or discussion, Kierkegaard constructed entire works or portions of works written in one or more of his own unique dialects. These "authors" remain constant throughout the Kierkegaardian corpus; a particular pseudonym may write several works, all from a consistent and defensible position. His method of communication has proven to be most perplexing for the reader, who must determine whether a certain "author" is speaking with Kierkegaard's voice, presenting a particular viewpoint, exposing a fallacious argument, or again, manifests an aspect of Kierkegaard's brooding presence. As one can imagine, a careless reading of Kierkegaard can yield all sorts of erroneous conclusions.

To appreciate Kierkegaard's polyonymous method of composition, we will compare the authorial structure of Plato's Symposium with Kierkegaard's Stages on Life's Way—a work whose first section is modeled directly upon it. Plato chose the dialogue form to convey philosophical ideas. Although he did not create this literary form, it is so closely associated with his name that we might well consider it his own, even if he also departed from it in the Apology and the epistles attributed to him. One can only guess what Plato's purpose might have been in using this form of discourse versus a more traditional treatise. Perhaps it was a means of guiding the reader through the reasoning process that states the issue, shows the inadequacy of current understanding, redefines the terms, and then attempts a solution. Whereas an essay runs the risk of being an unimaginative and authoritarian means of making a point, a dialogue is a more vivid, personal, and less imposing means of communication that more readily engages the reader. Thus we find in the Symposium an exchange more similar to our own idea of drama. Plato is not reluctant to let the interlocutor speak intelligently, persuasively, and even poetically. At times, some speakers, Socrates included, fail to convince; nevertheless, the dialogue form is a stimulating and engaging method of communication.

Kierkegaard took this indirect method of composition, which employs philosophical viewpoints within a work (characters in a dialogue), and extended them to encompass portions of works, or entire works. I think that the best approach to Kierkegaard is to see him (like Plato) presiding over his work, much as Christian theology sees God presiding over his creation, with no one individual creation exhausting his being or ideality. To continue the analogy, some creatures may even directly oppose him. In this sense, we might look at the pseudonyms as free, even contradictory, agents. Kierkegaard's indirect method of communication is compelling because it extends beyond the period of a decade. Moreover, he took much delight in seeing the general public baffled by his technique, although members of academia managed to decipher his plan. For example, an article appeared in The Fatherland in 1845 in response to Kierkegaard's Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, exposing his pseudonymous authorship. Moreover, a later reviewer, who attributed Either/Or to Kierkegaard, used a pseudonym himself. The use of pseudonyms was not rare in the nineteenth century, but Kierkegaard's sustained dialectical use of pseudonyms is unique.

However, having said this, we must not think that polyonymity was a mere game, or solely a disguise, for Kierkegaard. In his Concluding Unscientific Postscript, which was to be his final work, he used a pseudonym, even while listing himself as editor. He also appended to it a public declaration of his pseudonymous authorship. This adds strong support for the view that the pseudonyms were designed to orientate the work in a philosophical framework. We must bear in mind that Kierkegaard's writings naturally underwent development. Here I lay out a polyonymous scheme of Plato's Symposium and Kierkegaard's Stages, from author through interlocutors-pseudonyms.


Summary: Plato has Apollodorus recall in part what Aristodemus recalled in part of the banquet, including the speech of Socrates, who in turn quoted Diotima at length.

Kierkegaard—The Unknown Owner of the Manuscript—Hilarius Bookbinder
—William Afham—Pseudonymous Speakers; A Married Man; Frater Taciturnus—Quidam

Summary: Kierkegaard writes that a work of unknown origin comes into the hands of the compiler-editor H. Bookbinder. The work is introduced as a collection by Afham. Afham writes on the theme of recollection and then presents three pieces. The first is a modern symposium, some of whose speakers are published pseudonyms of Kierkegaard. The second and third parts are on the ethical and religious spheres respectively, each by different pseudonyms. Frater Taciturnus in turn claims to have found the diary of Quidam.

Kierkegaard's pseudonymity was not an afterthought late in his writing career. Either/Or, which was his second major work, and his first full-length pseudonymous work, was crafted with several pseudonyms. Kierkegaard took unusual pains to ensure that the public would not know who wrote it. The final draft of the work was done by several hands, so that even employees at the printer's would be deceived. Years after he wrote Either/Or, Kierkegaard revealed his authorial intent.

My contemporaries cannot grasp the design of my writing. Either/Or divided into four parts or six parts and published separately over six years would have been all right. But that each essay in Either/Or is only part of a whole, and then the whole of Either/Or a part of a whole: that, after all, think my bourgeois contemporaries, is enough to drive one daft (Journals, VII 1 A 118).

Beyond the difficulties inherent in his authorial method, Kierkegaard's writings themselves can be very bewildering and rambling even to those who understand his scheme. Fortunately, his unconventional style of writing is as much poetic narrative as it is philosophy, as his works often rise to great lyrical heights of beauty. On another note, his use of pseudonyms must have deprived him of book sales, since he would continually be "marketing" each author.

B: Pseudonymity

1: Dialectical Schema

Dialectic can mean several things. First, it is a method of asking questions, which includes refutation and elaboration. Socrates is perhaps the most noteworthy dialectician of this sort. His dialectic was based on ignorance (feigned or real), which was designed to orient the interlocutors to their own ignorance. Second, dialectic can mean inquiry into a philosophical matter. This is more the ancient view whereby things are understood according to their classification into categories. Third, dialectic can be the entire expression of a subject. Plato, for instance, wrote dialogues instead of treatises, and thus, never spoke to us directly. We cannot woodenly assign Socrates as the mouthpiece of Plato. Plato's dialectic is thus his means of expression. Kierkegaardian dialectic consisted of writing under pseudonyms, with each name writing from a certain viewpoint. Like Plato, Kierkegaard does not speak to us directly in most of his philosophical works.

Each of Kierkegaard's pseudonyms identifies the work thematically, situating it in a dialectical scheme, riveting the work in a literary and philosophical framework. The pseudonym Johannes Climacus deals with the doubt-faith dilemma. Vigilius Haufniensis addresses the psychological aspects of sin and anxiety. Johannes de Silentio and Constantin Constantius address the ethical sphere as it poetically relates to Kierkegaard's own relationship with Regine Olsen. Anti-Climacus represents idealized Christianity, and so forth. In his journals, Kierkegaard addresses the personalities of the pseudonyms.

As is well known, my authorship has two parts: one pseudonymous and the other signed. The pseudonymous writers are poetized personalities, poetically maintained so that everything they say is in character with their poetized individualities; sometimes I have carefully explained in a signed preface my own interpretation of what the pseudonym said. Anyone with just a fragment of common sense will perceive that it would be ludicrously confusing to attribute to me everything the poetized characters say.

2: The Impossibility of Directly Communicating The Paradoxical

In Practice In Christianity Kierkegaard addresses the inherent ineffability of spiritual matters, particularly the mystery of the incarnation of Christ. A reading of the Gospels makes it clear that Jesus addressed the crowds in parables. He reserved more direct utterances, however, for the twelve disciples closest to him—and even they often misunderstood. This is because transcendental truth cannot be directly understood, but must be mediated by deeds or by indirect communication. In Practice In Christianity Kierkegaard explores the nature of the signs that Christ performed, focussing on their communicative value. Even the apparent direct sayings of Christ, such as "I and the Father are one", are indirect to an extent since the speaker is the God-man, the mediator, a human who has come from God, in the veil of flesh. The God-man is viewed as a paradox and an offense. This stumbling block encourages the follower to look beyond the sign, paradox, or offense.

Yet neither the miracle nor the single direct statement is absolutely direct communication; for in that case the contradiction is eo ipso cancelled. As far as the miracle, which is the object of faith, is concerned, this is certainly easy to see; as for the second, that the single direct statement is nevertheless not direct communication, this will be shown later.... But everything called purely human compassion is related to direct recognizability. Yet if he does not become the object of faith, he is not true God; and if he is not true God, then he does not save people either. Therefore, by the step he takes out of love he at the same time plunges that person, mankind, into the most horrible decision. Indeed, it is as if one heard a cry from human compassion: Oh, why are you doing this! And yet he does it out of love; he does it to save people (p. 126, 137f.).

Since sublime and subjective truth must be communicated indirectly—at least at first, as it was to the disciples of Christ—the author who wishes to communicate spiritual matters may need to speak using alternative means, such as by myths or parables, or in Kierkegaard's case, pseudonymity.

3: Authorial Distance

There are several other functions of pseudonymity. Pseudonyms create distance from the author, perhaps even to the point of negating him. Kierkegaard contemplated adding the following postscript to the second edition of Either/Or (1849).

I hereby retract this book. It was a necessary deception in order, if possible, to deceive men into the religious, which has continually been my task all along. Maieutically it certainly has had its influence. Yet I do not need to retract it, for I have never claimed to be its author (Journals, X 1 A 192).

In an article entitled "Who is the Author of Either/Or?" (published under the pseudonym A. F.), Kierkegaard says,

Most people, including the author of this article, think it is not worth the trouble to be concerned about who the author is. They are happy not to know his identity, for then they have only the book to deal with, without being bothered or distracted by his personality (p. 16).

Kierkegaard anticipated modern approaches to literature. Here he is clearly maintaining that he wants his works read apart from considerations of his own personality.

During The Corsair Affair Kierkegaard published an article called "The Activity of a Traveling Esthetician and How He Still Happened to Pay for the Dinner". There he says,

An author with an awareness of the dialectical difficulty of the task expects, of course, very few readers and wants it that way as well, although he does not pretentiously and wantonly express it in a preface but acknowledges it in his own being and therefore even uses his own I, not exactly à la [Hans Christian] Andersen, but rather a little Socratically, in order teasingly to thrust people away. He is contented with a few readers, with one; he is contented with fewer, for he is contented to be an author, enchanted by the contradiction of the infinite; to be contented with the divine pleasure of thinking. Existential dialectic, especially in the form of double-reflection, cannot be communicated directly (p. 44).

In Concluding Unscientific Postscript, which was to mark the end of his authorship in 1846, Kierkegaard said of Either/Or, "The absence of an author is a means of distancing" (p. 252). To this work he appended "A First and Last Explanation", where he identifies and explains his pseudonymous authorship. He says,

My pseudonymity or polyonymity has not had an accidental basis in my person...but an essential basis in the production itself, which, for the sake of the lines and of the psychologically varied differences of the individualities, poetically required an indiscriminateness with regard to good and evil, brokenheartedness and gaiety, despair and overconfidence, suffering and elation, etc.... What has been written, then, is mine, but only insofar as I, by means of audible lines, have placed the life-view of the creating, poetically actual individuality in his mouth, for my relation is even more remote than that of a poet, who poetizes characters and yet in the preface is himself the author. That is, I am impersonally or personally in the third person as a souffleur [prompter] who has poetically produced the authors, whose prefaces in turn are their productions, as their names are also. Thus in the pseudonymous books there is not a single word by me. I have no opinion about them except as a third party, no knowledge of their meaning except as a reader, not the remotest private relation to them, since it is impossible to have that to a doubly reflected communication.... My role is the joint role of being the secretary and, quite ironically, the dialectically reduplicated author of the author or the authors. ...but on the other hand I am very literally and directly the author of, for example, the upbuilding discourses and of every word in them (p. 625ff).

Just as there is distance away from the author, there is distance away from the reader. In the preface to Two Upbuilding Discourses (see Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses) Kierkegaard beautifully describes how he gazes upon his work until a reader comes to snatch it up.

Inasmuch as in being published it is in a figurative sense starting a journey, I let my eyes follow it for a little while. I saw how it wended its way down solitary paths or walked solitary on public roads. After a few little mistakes, through being deceived by a fleeting resemblance, it finally met that single individual whom I with joy and gratitude call my reader, that single individual it is seeking, to whom, so to speak, it stretches out its arms, that single individual who is favorably enough disposed to allow himself to be found, favorably enough disposed to receive it, whether at the time of the encounter it finds him cheerful and confident or "weary and pensive."—On the other hand, inasmuch as in being published it actually remains quiet without moving from the spot, I let my eyes rest on it for a little while. It stood there like a humble little flower under the cover of the great forest, sought neither for its splendor nor its fragrance nor its food value. But I also saw, or thought I saw, how the bird I call my reader suddenly noticed it, flew down to it, picked it, and took it home, and when I had seen this, I saw no more (p. 5).

However, when Kierkegaard tells us that he has no relation to the pseudonymous works, he is not strictly telling us the truth. He deeply and personally invested himself in his works. In this "Declaration" he says that he has nothing to do with Quidam's diary (p. 626), which was constructed by his pseudonym Frater Taciturnus in Stages On Life's Way. However, some of the journal entries are taken directly out of his own journals concerning his relationship with Regine Olsen. In Fear and Trembling, for example, the story of Abraham and Isaac apparently represents his own engagement to Regine. He also altered the ending of Repetition, the story of a young man who cannot capitulate his love affair, when events changed in his own life. Considering also that Kierkegaard appended his own name as editor to the Fragments and to the Postscript, authorial distance apparently has its limits.

Yet this distancing, such as it is, has another function: to draw out the reader's individuality.

One of the tragedies of modern times is precisely this—to have abolished the 'I', the personal I. For this very reason, real ethical-religious communication is as if vanished from the world. For ethical-religious truth is related essentially to personality and can only be communicated by an I to an I. As soon as the communication becomes objective, the truth has become untruth. It is the personality we are to reach. Therefore I regard it as my merit that, by bringing poetized personalities who say I to the center of life's actuality (my pseudonyms), I have done what I can do to accustom contemporaries once more to hear an I, a personal I speak (not that fantastic pure I and its ventriloquism) (Journals, VIII 2B 88).

Louis Mackey, as quoted by H. and E. Hong (KW10, p. x), writes,

A Kierkegaardian pseudonym is a persona, an imaginary person created by the author for artistic purposes, not a nom de plume, a fictitious name used to protect his personal identity from the threats and embarrassments of publicity. When Kierkegaard signed his books with impossible names like Johannes de Silentio (John of Silence) and Vigilius Haufniensis (Watchman of Copenhagen), no one in the gossipy little world of Danish letters had any doubts about their origin. Nor did he mean they should; his purpose was not mystification but distance. By refusing to answer for his writings he detached them from his personality so as to let their form protect the freedom that was their theme (Kierkegaard: A Kind of Poet, Philadelphia, 1971, p. 247).

4: "Godly Deception"

Third, the pseudonyms dismantle philosophical presuppositions in the reader, especially those under the influence of the Hegelian "system". Kierkegaard felt that the indirect approach, or "wounding from behind", as he called it, was the best method. Thus, in a sense, Kierkegaard practiced deceit. Recall the quote above where Kierkegaard says "It was a necessary deception in order, if possible, to deceive men into the religious, which has continually been my task all along". In a footnote in Concluding Unscientific Postscript Kierkegaard pauses to consider the method of indirectness in Either/Or.

When a man has filled his mouth so full of food that for this reason he cannot eat and it must end with his dying of hunger, does giving food to him consist in stuffing his mouth even more or, instead, in taking a little away so that he can eat? Similarly, when a man is very knowledgeable but his knowledge is meaningless or virtually meaningless to him, does sensible communication consist in giving him more to know...or does it consist, instead, in taking something away from him? When a communicator takes a portion of the copious knowledge that the very knowledgeable man knows and communicates it to him in a form that makes it strange to him, the communicator is, as it were, taking away his knowledge, at least until the knower manages to assimilate the knowledge by overcoming the resistance of form (p. 275).

Kierkegaard dealt with his own authorship in more detail in The Point of View for My Work as an Author and On My Work as an Author. The former work was left unfinished and unpublished. The latter work, much shorter than the former, was written in part to justify the existence of the religious discourses against some critics who thought them to be less important than the indirect, philosophical works.

But just as that which has been communicated (the idea of the religious) has been cast entirely into reflection and taken back again out of reflection, so also the communication has been decisively marked by reflection, or the form of communication used is that of reflection. "Direct communication" is: to communicate the truth directly; "communication in reflection" is: to deceive into truth. But since the movement is to arrive at the simple, the communication in turn must sooner or later end in direct communication. It began maieutically with esthetic works, and the whole pseudonymous production is maieutic in nature. Therefore, these works were also pseudonymous, whereas the directly religious—which from the beginning was present in the glimmer of an indication—carried my name. The directly religious was present from the very beginning; Two Upbuilding Discourses (1843) are in fact concurrent with Either/Or. And in order to safeguard the concurrence of the directly religious, every pseudonymous work was accompanied concurrently by a little collection of "upbuilding discourses" until Concluding Postscript appeared, which poses the issue, which is "the issue" kat' exochen [in the eminent sense] of the whole authorship: "becoming a Christian" (p. 7f.).

By "maieutic", Kierkegaard is referring to the Socratic method of learning through asking questions. Just as the characters in a Platonic dialogue converse, and Plato's message is found within the totality of the dialogue and is not thereby limited to the role of Socrates, just so is the method of Kierkegaard found in the interrelationship of his works, which include the direct, religious works. This perhaps gives us the best explanation for the pseudonyms: they set out to create a dialogue that is written very large over a long period of time. Anyone who reads only a work or two is like someone who comes into the middle of a conversation and leaves before it is over; he is misinformed.

A journal entry further clarifies Kierkegaard's methodology.

... Thus in a way I began my activity as an author with a falsum or with a pia fraus [pious fraud]. The fact is, in so-called established Christendom people are so settled in the delusion that they are Christians that if there is to be any question of making them aware, one will have to resort to many an artifice. If someone not otherwise known as an author starts off straightaway as a Christian author, he will not catch the ear of his age. His contemporaries are immediately on their guard, saying, 'That's not for us,' etc.

I began as an estheticist—and then reached the religious, though with a rapidity that no doubt went unnoticed, and then I evinced what it is to become a Christian, etc.

This is the way I present myself here as an author for my contemporaries—and it is the way in which I belong to history in any case. It is only here I believe I can risk, or am able to say, anything about myself as an author. I do not believe that my personality, my private life, and whatever I may have to reproach myself for, are matters of public concern. I am the author, and who I am in myself and what has been granted me are things I am well enough aware of. I have come to terms with everything that could serve my cause.

I would especially ask every more competent person to be slow to judge powers and the use of powers that are not seen every day. I ask this of the more competent in particular for there would be no use asking it of fools. But every more competent person has a proper respect for himself and for his judgement—and precisely for this reason I ask him to judge with care.

It is Christianity that I have wanted, and still want, to present; to that end every hour of my day has been and is dedicated (IX A 171).

In another journal entry, Kierkegaard mentions the role of the esthetic writings to lead men to the religious stage.

...before there could be any question of even introducing the religious, the esthetically strengthening, Either/Or had to precede, so that maieutically a beginning might be made with esthetic writings (the pseudonyms) in order if possible to get hold of men, which after all comes first before there can be any thought of moving them over into the religious, and in this it was also assured that in the sense of reflection the religious would be employed with dialectical care....

If one aims to elevate a whole period, one must really know it. That is why the proclaimers of Christianity who begin right off with orthodoxy actually do not have much influence and only on a few. For Christendom is very far behind. One has to begin with paganism. So I begin with Either/Or. In that way I have managed to get the age to go along with me without ever dreaming where it is going or where we now are.... If one begins immediately with Christianity, they say: This is nothing for us—and put themselves immediately on guard.

To further understand Kierkegaard's rationale for deception, we turn again to The Point of View. Kierkegaard returns to a theme that he briefly addressed in the Postscript, and would later return to most vehemently and relentlessly in his attack on Official Christianity, namely, that all think they are Christians, while most are not. How does one undo such self-deception?

No, an illusion can never be destroyed directly, and only by indirect means can it be radically removed. If it is an illusion that all are Christians—and if there is anything to be done about it, it must be done indirectly, not by one who vociferously proclaims himself an extraordinary Christian, but by one who, better instructed, is ready to declare that he is not a Christian at all....

If then, according to our assumption, the greater number of people in Christendom only imagine themselves to be Christians, in what categories do they live? They live in esthetic, or, at the most, in esthetic-ethical categories.... There is nothing that requires such gentle handling as an illusion, if one wishes to dispel it. If anyone prompts the prospective captive to set his will in opposition, all is lost. And this is what a direct attack achieves, and it implies moreover the presumption of requiring a man to make to another person, or in his presence, an admission which he can make most profitably to himself privately. This is what is achieved by the indirect method, which, loving and serving the truth, arranges everything dialectically for the prospective captive, and then shyly withdraws (for love is always shy), so as not to witness the admission which he makes to himself alone before God—that he has lived hitherto in an illusion (p. 24ff.).

5: "Without Authority"

A fourth reason for his method relates to authority. Kierkegaard knew that he did not possess apostolic authority. In a discourse entitled "Of the Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle" (see Two Minor Ethical-Religious Essays), Kierkegaard notes that the apostle speaks directly and under inspiration, and hence with authority. The genius—and Kierkegaard knew he was one—has no such authority. This prohibited him from speaking "directly" until later years. Later, when he wanted to present idealized Christianity, he used a special pseudonym, Anti-Climacus, listing himself as editor. Kierkegaard never claimed to be a Christian, but someone on the way to becoming one. He was "without authority".

A genius and an Apostle are qualitatively different.... All thought breathes in immanence, whereas faith and the paradox are a qualitative sphere unto themselves.... Genius is...immediateness...genius is born.... An Apostle is not born: an Apostle is a man called and appointed by God, receiving a mission from him.... Authority is the decisive quality.

In On My Work as an Author, Kierkegaard says,

From the very beginning, I have stressed and repeated unchanged that I was "without authority." I regard myself rather as a reader of the books, not as the author. "Before God," religiously, I call my whole work as an author (when I speak with myself) my own upbringing and development, but not in the sense as if I were now complete or completely finished with respect to needing upbringing and development (p. 12).

6: The Influence of Plato: The Maieutic Approach

Socrates used the maieutic approach (from the Greek maieutikos, meaning "giving birth") to elicit the truth by asking questions. Indeed he compared himself to a midwife who assists with the birth of knowledge in the individual. He often asked questions as if he already had the answers. Moreover, Socrates said that a god (or the divinity) spoke to him often from his youth, dissuading him from certain activities: "A certain voice comes, which whenever it comes, always turns me away from whatever I was about to do, but never turns me toward something" (Apology 31d). In his maieutic approach Socrates claims to be ignorant about some quality or principle, and he seeks assistance from those who claim to know, who actually do not. Furthermore, none of the interlocutors can bring his argument to a satisfactory conclusion. There is a great measure of irony in these works in that Socrates mildly insults his companions while seeming to compliment their appetite and aptitude for truth. In Theaetetus Socrates describes his maieutic power.

Socrates: How absurd of you, never to have heard that I am the son of a midwife, a fine buxom woman called Phaenarete!

Theaetetus: I have heard that.

Socrates: Have you also been told that I practice the same art?

Theaetetus: No, never.

Socrates: It is true, though; only don't give away my secret. It is not known that I possess this skill; so the ignorant world describes me in other terms as an eccentric person who reduces people to hopeless perplexity.... Consider, then, how it is with all midwives; that will help you to understand what I mean.

There is little doubt that Kierkegaard was greatly impressed by this method, since it is consistent with the subjective approach to knowledge acquisition. The following entries are a clue to understanding Kierkegaard's method of composition, and, in the case of the former, Plato's influence on him.

The fact that several of Plato's dialogues end with no conclusion has a far deeper reason than I had earlier thought. For this is a reproduction of Socrates' maieutic skills, which activate the reader or listener himself, and therefore end not in any conclusion but with a sting. This is an excellent parody of the modern rote-learning method that says everything at once and the quicker the better, which does not awaken the reader to any self-activity, but only allows him to recite by heart (VII I A 74).

Now they can do what they want with me—mock me, envy me, refuse to read me, bang me on the head, put me to death; what they cannot in all eternity deny is my idea and my life, that mine was one of the most original thoughts in a long time and the most original in the Danish language, that Christianity needed a maieutician, and I understood how to be that while no one knew how to appreciate it. The category of proclaiming Christianity and confessing Christ isn't appropriate in Christendom; here the maieutic is exactly right; it assumes that human beings possess the highest but wants to help them become aware of what they possess (VIII I A 42).

III: The Pseudonyms of Kierkegaard

Here we track the philosophical vantage point and function of the individual pseudonyms. Broadly speaking, Kierkegaard's philosophical works can be divided into his period of indirect communication (through 1846), with his use of the "lower pseudonyms", and his period of direct communication (from 1848) with his use of the "higher pseudonyms". This latter period is sometimes called Kierkegaard's "second authorship".

A: The Lower Pseudonyms

Victor Eremita

Victor Eremita means the victorious hermit. He is the editor of Either/Or parts 1 and 2, which parts in turn have their own editor-author (see below). As we will see when we examine the pseudonyms William Afham and Frater Taciturnus below, Kierkegaard by all appearances continually distances himself from his authorship. Here he is the victorious hermit, because like a hermit he isolated himself in his room and wrote voluminously for several years. Kierkegaard, even while he was devoting many hours everyday to writing, would visit the theatre and mull about before and after the performance so that people might think he was an idle person. His foppish appearance contributed to this effect. He was the "victorious hermit" because he managed to fool many people with this scheme. Victor Eremita is also the author of "A Word of Thanks to Professor Heiberg", published in The Fatherland in 1843.


A is the editor-author of part one (the "Either" part) of Either/Or, as opposed to author B, who edited the "Or" part (see below). Eremita, the editor of the entire work Either/Or, says that it is difficult to determine not only the order of A's works, but which ones are by him or merely edited by him. It would seem that the "Seducer's Diary" is by one esthete and the remaining works by another. Kierkegaard goes to great lengths in his use of pseudonyms. Some of the works edited by A may also be by The Young Man, who is also the subject of Kierkegaard's Repetition, who signifies the esthetic stage, since he cannot commit to the ethical. Most of the works by A point to a more reflective and somber esthete as opposed to the author of the "Seducer's Diary". The latter "author" is more overtly in the pleasures of the moment, of which one is pleasure at recollecting the period of seduction. A is also the author of "A Cursory Observation Concerning a Detail in Don Giovanni", published in The Fatherland in 1845. This continues Kierkegaard's interest in Don Juan from Either/Or part one. Lastly, A is the author of a very early article, "Another Defense of Woman's Great Abilities". Kierkegaard had not yet concretized his use of the pseudonyms, so we must hesitate before judging this work by the same criteria.

B, or Judge William

Judge William is the editor-author of part two (the "Or" part) of Either/Or, otherwise known as author B, as opposed to author A (see above). He symbolizes the ethical stage in his advocacy of marriage, which concept, as we have said elsewhere, is a forward-looking commitment known as repetition (see Repetition), contrasted with the backward-looking (esthetic) concept of recollection. Judge William is also the "Married Man", who composes the second (ethical) portion of Stages on Life's Way entitled "Reflections on Marriage". Lastly, B, like A above, is the author of some very early articles, "The Morning Observations in Kjøbenhavnposten No. 43" and "On the Polemic of Fædrelandet". Again, Kierkegaard had not yet concretized his use of the pseudonyms, so we must hesitate before judging these works by the same criteria.

A. F.

This is the author of an article that appeared in The Fatherland in 1843, entitled "Who is the Author of Either/Or?", which appeared just one week after Either/Or was published. It is interesting that Kierkegaard uses a different pseudonym to "speculate" on who a pseudonym of his might be. A. F., which was used only on this occasion, does not appear to have any intrinsic importance, but is simply a nom de plume, unlike the other pseudonyms which are dialectically oriented.

Hilarius Bookbinder

This is the editor-compiler-discoverer of the Stages on Life's Way. Hilarius is from the Latin Hilarus meaning joyful or merry. This joyful bookbinder introduces himself, acknowledging the strangeness of a mere bookbinder becoming a publisher. Though it is difficult to understand Kierkegaard's genius here, it would seem that he is trying to blur the definition of authorship. What is a bookbinder doing publishing? Indeed, what is Kierkegaard doing publishing? Let us not forget also that Kierkegaard, true to the name Hilarius, is seeking to have fun as well.

William Afham

Afham means "by himself". Afham is the author of the first portion of Stages On Life's Way, known as In Vino Veritas (literally, "In wine, truth"). Once again Kierkegaard exhibits playfulness, since he is saying the work is "by himself" when he does not identify himself. Since this work seems to be the companion piece to Either/Or, it is surprising that we encounter a new pseudonym. However, since the religious stage is presented for the first time, that may justify the new pseudonym. Just as in The Sickness Unto Death Kierkegaard was to write on "despair of willing not to be oneself", here, as in all of the works up to 1846, he is not willing to reveal himself.

Johannes de Silentio

Johannes de Silentio is the author of Fear and Trembling. Like the pseudonyms Victor Eremita, William Afham, and Frater Taciturnus, there is a clever abdication of true authorship, retaining the theme of silence. This author is a poet who writes on the ethical and the religious, and expresses Kierkegaard's heartfelt relationship with Regine Olsen.

Constantin Constantius

Constantin Constantius is the author of Repetition, the theme of which is about remaining in the forward-looking commitment to the ethical sphere. What relationship, if any, he might have to the emperor Constantine, or to his son Constantius, is unclear. The pseudonym itself reinforces this idea of constancy. He also appears as an interlocutor in part one (the esthetic part) of Stages on Life's Way, entitled In Vino Veritas, where he belittles seduction as an esthetic game. He speaks of woman as a jest. Seducers are fools for making such a fuss about the pursuit. To him, eros has overreached himself. This is consistent with Constantius' Repetition, where commitment to the future relationship is more important than poetical recollection of the past. Like Johannes de Silentio (above) Constantin is a poet who writes on the ethical stage, and typifies Kierkegaard's longing for Regine Olsen.

Vigilius Haufniensis

Vigilius is the author of the Concept of Anxiety. Its companion piece, The Sickness Unto Death, is taken over by the pseudonym Anti-Climacus because Kierkegaard has ceased to use all other previous pseudonyms after 1848, when he begins direct communication. Vigilius Haufniensis means Watchman of Copenhagen. Since this work is not only psychological in nature, but concerns Christian dogma, perhaps Kierkegaard thought a new (non-philosophical) author was required. As a "watchman" it would seem that Kierkegaard is aware of his own importance to the well-being of his city. He would more profoundly fulfill that role in 1854 when he attacked the church.

Nicolaus Notabene

Nicolaus Notabene is the author of Prefaces. Kierkegaard uses this pseudonym only in this work to lampoon aspects of contemporary society, especially Hegelianism, as well as the literary figure J. L. Heiberg. Notabene's persona is a pedant. This pseudonym is sometimes rendered in the text as "N. N"., which was a Danish abbreviation denoting anonymity. Kierkegaard would sometimes misquote others since he relied on his formidable memory. McDonald concludes that since Notabene misquotes his sources much more frequently, that it is intentional on the part of Kierkegaard.

A. B. C. D. E. F. Godthaab (Rosenblad)

This is the author of the unfinished Writing Sampler, which was to be a sequel to Prefaces. Kierkegaard changed the last name from Rosenblad to Godthaab. This name does not seem to have any dialectical significance.

Inter et Inter

This is the author of The Crisis and a Crisis in the Life of an Actress. Inter et Inter is Latin for "Between and Between". It may also remind us of the Latin translation of either/or, aut/aut. Stephen Crites says that this pseudonym "suggests the intermission at the theatre, but doubtless is also intended to reflect the fact that the article is only an interlude between the religious works which now comprise Kierkegaard's main task".


This is the author of Herr Phister as Captain Scipio. Procul is Latin for "from a distance". "This pseudonym", Crites suggests, "seems to have been chosen with the passage...in mind, which...refers to the 'infinitely distant' relationship between the reflective critic and the reflective artist whom he admires, an admiration 'as aristocratically distant as mind can be from mind.'" We may again note the distance Kierkegaard keeps from his pseudonymous writings.

Frater Taciturnus

Frater Taciturnus composed the third section (the religious stage) in the Stages On Life's Way. Thus, a person ostensibly of the religious order composes this introduction to the religious stage (sphere). Frater Taciturnus is Latin for the "brother who remains silent". Again, Kierkegaard plays with the theme of writing without attributing the work to his own name. Moreover, his work "Guilty?/Not Guilty?" contains "Quidam's Diary". Quidam is Latin for "someone". In sum, the Stages is compiled by a bookbinder who has never published before; the work is by Afham (that is, "by himself"); the next stage is by "A Married Man" (Kierkegaard had broken off his engagement and thus could not adhere to the repetition of the ethical stage—keeping him in the esthetic stage); finally, the last stage is written by someone who "remains silent" and quotes from "Someone". (We might recall Odysseus calling himself "Nobody" in the Odyssey to fool the cyclops). Taciturnus is also the pseudonym used in the two articles published during The Corsair affair, since Stages On Life's Way, especially the part penned by Taciturnus, was negatively critiqued by P. L. Møller. These articles were "The Activity of a Traveling Esthetician and How He Still Happened to Pay for the Dinner" and "The Dialectical Result of a Literary Police Action".

Johannes Climacus

Johannes Climacus is the author of the Philosophical Fragments and its companion piece, the Concluding Unscientific Postscript, as well as the posthumous Johannes Climacus, or De Omnibus Dubitandum Est. He might thus be deemed the author of Kierkegaard's greatest philosophical works. The style of Climacus varies from each of the three productions, but they are singular as to their dialectical mission. Kierkegaard took this name from a Greek monk (c. 570-649) who was the abbot of Saint Catherine's of Alexandria on Mt. Sinai. He was the author of the work Klimax tou Paradeisou (translated into Latin as Scala Paradisi), or Ladder of Paradise (Klimax being the Greek for ladder). This book, incidentally, was the first book to be printed in the New World, translated into Spanish (Mexico, 1532). Climacus' work was written for a monastic audience. He says that no one should attempt the contemplative life without first warring against and subduing the passions. The ladder is thus a series of thirty steps which ultimately lead to impassibility and imperturbability, not entirely unlike the ataraxia of the Epicureans, except that Epicureans seek to escape the troubles of the world for quiet contemplative pleasure while Climacus strove for the heavenly vision. As The Imitation of Christ is one of the most popular devotional works outside of the Bible in the West, the Ladder has long achieved the same importance in the East. It is read every Lent in Orthodox monasteries, and is appointed to be read aloud in church or in the refectory.

For Kierkegaard, the pseudonym Johannes Climacus represents the subjective approach to knowledge, though this Climacus is not a believer. The ladder is not then the ascent to God but is meant to call to mind an ascending series of logical plateaus, where the logician, represented particularly by Descartes and Hegel, proceeds from one premise to the next. Johannes rejects this method in spiritual matters, thinking it ridiculous to approach the Absolute in any way except through faith. He is concerned with subjective knowledge and with the leap (for more on the leap see A Primer On Kierkegaardian Motifs). Objective knowledge, which is the avowed goal of rational philosophers, is impossible to appropriate by subjective creatures. Moreover, Kierkegaard was concerned with knowledge that would encourage the soul to turn to God. But Johannes claims not to be a Christian, since he has not yet reached that knowledge of God. The rigorous ascent to God toward impassibility has been replaced by the very passionate and subjective approach to truth whereby the believer, by virtue of the absurd, finds himself before Christ.

B: The Higher Pseudonyms

H. H.

This is the author of Two Minor Ethical-Religious Essays, including "Has a Man the Right to Let Himself Be Put to Death for the Truth?" and the "Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle". Though this work was written in 1847, it was published in 1849. In the former work, H. H. addresses the role of martyrdom, while in the latter work, he addresses the authority of a Christian, particularly that of an Apostle. He writes from the decidedly religious standpoint by declaring the utter distinction between an inspired man and a man of natural talent. H. H. does not engage in the same level of intellectual discourse as Anti-Climacus (below), nor is he (apparently) the representation of idealized Christianity. Yet his voice rings of authority.


Anti-Climacus is the author of The Sickness Unto Death and Practice in Christianity. He might be considered the author of Kierkegaard's greatest religious works. This author relates directly to Johannes Climacus, and is his opposite by going beyond him. Kierkegaard used Anti-Climacus to write from the vantage point of a perfect Christian because he himself could not claim to be one (just as Johannes Climacus could not). H. Hong remarks, "The prefix (Anti-) does not mean 'against.' An old form of 'ante' (before), as in 'anticipate,' the prefix denotes a relation of rank, as in 'before me' in the First Commandment". In his journals Kierkegaard said, "Climacus is lower, denies he is a Christian. Anti-Climacus is higher, a Christian on an extraordinarily high level". In another entry he says, "I would place myself higher than Johannes Climacus, lower than Anti-Climacus". Kierkegaard considered Practice In Christianity to be his "most perfect and truest" work, and thought it to be, with The Sickness Unto Death, most important.

IV: An Essay On Plato and Kierkegaard's Method of Composition

"Indirectness in Plato's Symposium and Kierkegaard's Stages On Life's Way"

Note: This essay is copyright ©1993 by D.Anthony Storm
Second Note: Some smaller portions of this paper appear elsewhere in this site
A Word of Thanks: I would like to thank Prof. P. Simpson (CUNY) for inspiring me to write this essay.

The purpose of this essay is to explore the method of communication used by Plato in the Symposium and then compare it to that used in a modern Symposium by Kierkegaard. Each author uses an intriguing method of indirect communication whereby his technique is diffused among the various personalities within his work. Before we address this specific approach it will be helpful to pursue some common features of a Platonic dialogue.

The Mouthpiece of Plato

Plato chose the dialogue form to convey philosophical ideas. Although he did not create this literary form, it is so closely associated with his name that we might well consider it his own, even if he also departed from it in the Apology and the epistles attributed to him. One can only guess what Plato's purpose might have been in using this form of discourse versus a more traditional treatise. Perhaps it was a means of guiding the reader through the reasoning process that states the issue, shows the inadequacy of current understanding, redefines the terms and then attempts a solution. Whereas an essay runs the risk of being an unimaginative and authoritarian means of making a point, a dialogue is a more vivid, personal and less imposing means of communication that more readily engages the reader. True, there are a number of dialogues that are scarcely more than monologues, where Socrates (or, e. g., the Eleatic Stranger) and a second character exchange words, in which the sole purpose of the latter is to say things like "Of course", "Most certainly", "It is obvious". Yet we do find many dialogues where the interlocutor makes a good show of it. Thus we find in the Symposium an exchange more similar to our own idea of drama. Plato is not reluctant to let the interlocutor speak intelligently, persuasively and even poetically. At times, some speakers, Socrates included, fail to convince; nevertheless, the dialogue form is a stimulating and engaging method of communication.

A common tendency among commentators of the recent past has been to overlook the literary features of Plato's dialogues, preferring to concentrate on the words of Socrates as if they were the ipsissima verba of Plato. Such pursuits ignore Plato's creative dialectic method. Surely the dialogue form was crucial to Plato's technique or he would have dispensed with it. The manner of communication is as important to the understanding of a text as the manifest ideas themselves. To put it another way: Form and content are partners in a communicative effort. In the Symposium, each speech lays a new stratum of information so that the reader is escorted through a series of thought-models. In this sense, the Symposium could well be described as an outgrowth or an expansion of the dialogue. At any rate, the reader must assess the Symposium like he assesses the dialogues since a narrative aspect has been introduced.

It is often difficult, and what is more important, erroneous, to attempt to distill Plato's unadulterated voice from among his various mouthpieces, as if he spoke from behind a single, thin mask. It is the difference between seeing Shakespeare as playwright, almost as a god presiding over his creation, versus seeing Hamlet as the mouthpiece of Shakespeare. Since we must assume that Plato did have some communicative purpose in mind, how are we to approach this text? In the quest to understand any work of Plato a reader may do one of two things: either focus upon the character who is thought to represent Plato (a dubious choice, as I have just noted) or he may take a more holistic approach to the dialogue. I maintain that Plato's definitive voice is not only difficult to ascertain, but that we ought not to conceive of him delivering a homiletical or authoritative message like Saint Paul, notwithstanding the fact, as I have noted, that Socrates does resemble a mere prop at times, especially in the Republic. This is not to say that Plato never did speak through Socrates. It is nevertheless a disputable task to ascribe to Socrates or to any other character Plato's authentic voice. If we then are to deny the profitability of favoring one character that serves as Plato's total mouthpiece, we might argue that Plato, so to speak, broods over a dialogue. He may present different aspects of an idea, circulate among the speakers, now agreeing with this one, now with that one, perhaps never unveiling his thought in toto. Socrates, or another character, may correct the "errors" of the other speakers by exposing their logical fallacies, their ignorance of the topic, or their inability to define it; he may critique their methodology. We might conjecture that Plato composed an entire dialogue for his students that would represent a "spurious" idea for their analyses. If this were the case, we must be cautious in making assumptions. And assuming that Plato's opinion can somehow be retrieved, do dialogues containing only two speakers, for example Socrates and some neophyte, simplify our task? That is, is it easier to find Plato's thought in the dialogue Euthyphro than in the Symposium? Even if Socrates in the Euthyphro is a mouthpiece, we do not know if Plato later abandoned his own position. To add to this difficulty, the reader who insists on establishing the voice of Plato must keep mindful of the problem of dating his writings, a task perhaps eminently hopeless, since the reader would be unsure if the voice of Plato, which once may have resided in the mouthpiece of Socrates, did not later flee its congenial abode. Though there is insufficient space to say whether Plato did or did not speak solely through Socrates, we are on safer ground in the Symposium, within its variety of form and narrative styles, to sense the brooding or residing presence of Plato over his work. He would not have introduced such a complex web of indirect discourse from Apollodorus through Diotima if he were not striving also to communicate by means of literary form. This leads to our main concern.

The Dialectic of Indirectness in Plato

We are now ready to address the method of communication that Plato used in the Symposium. In a word, it is an indirect method, establishing a strict departure from the essay form, which I call the Dialectic of Indirectness. By this I refer to Plato's entire approach to communication, particularly in the Symposium. In this work Plato ostensibly makes clear his purpose: to praise Eros. We find six speeches of great variety that follow this pattern, although the seventh, by the late-comer Alcibiades, is actually an encomium of Socrates. I will not repeat the point I just finished making by illustrating the superfluity of looking solely at Socrates' speech. Even if we wanted to do so, his speech is manifestly a collection of Diotima's ideas. There are conversations among the speakers before, during, and after the banquet. Moreover, interspersed throughout the banquet are narrative points of interest, either in the form of words exchanged or events. Widening our view, we find that the banquet is recounted by Aristodemus. Widening our view further, we read that Apollodorus is telling a friend what Aristodemus told him. The banquet is thus the product of a double memory. These factors are important for our study. But there are even more subtleties to observe. Beyond the speeches, dialogues and narrative events lie the more subjective aspects of memory, recollection, mythology, theology and mysticism. Aristophanes discusses our primeval nature; Socrates quotes the seer Diotima; others theorize on the origin and nature of the gods or the cosmos, and so on. It should be obvious by now that I consider all these factors to be essential in understanding the Symposium.

I will address all of the above with the use of three classifications that all come under the rubric of indirectness. First, the shell of the Symposium is cast as an account of an account. This method I will call the Indirectness of Polyonymity since Plato creates a stemma, or a branching off, of narrative viewpoints rather than speaking directly to us in an essay form or even through one main character. I do not mean merely that there are several speech makers who address each other in turn; surely, this is a consideration. But rather, the account of Apollodorus and of Aristodemus should each be considered as an "authorship". Here I would include Diotima's speech quoted by Socrates and, to a lesser extent, that of Eryximachus when he relates Phaedrus' complaint concerning the lack of any existing encomium to Eros. The branches provide the reader with differing layers of reality that contain differing perspectives; none explicitly presents Plato's full definitive message. This I call indirectness since the layering of narratives branch out and away from the authorship of Plato, creating distance and direction, and form sub-authorships or a polyonymity. Thus at any point in the narrative the reader needs to ask, "Who is actually speaking here?" Is it Phaedrus, for example, or really Apollodorus quoting Aristodemus quoting Phaedrus? Or again, when Socrates quotes Diotima, aside from the presence and influence of Apollodorus and Aristodemus, is he actually quoting her or using her as a prop to lend authority to his words? Or again, is he demonstrating his humility as one who formerly studied under another teacher?

The second part of the concept of indirectness includes what I call the Indirectness of Narrative Form, which consists of the narrative events that Plato devises, such as the following: the order of the speeches; the hiccoughing fit of Aristophanes; the brief lecture on the imbibing of alcohol, and later, on the cure of hiccoughs, by Eryximachus; the drunken entrance of Alcibiades; the episode with Socrates on the way to Agathon's and his diversion at the neighbor's porch; the sexual relationships of the guests to each other, and so on. Each of these situations is a stemma in its own right since it has a communicative value, however indirectly, for the reader. Indirectness would also include the social impetus of the gathering, the expressions and gestures of the participants, their thoughts, their goals, and so on. Thus, as one reads the Symposium, one continually asks, "To what end is Plato doing this?" Why include Eryximachus' speeches or the dispatching of the flute player, or the entrance of Alcibiades, or a dozen other things? The narrative interplay is vital to our understanding of the text.

The third type of indirectness I call the Indirectness of Subjectivity. Here I include primarily Plato's theory of recollection, since the entire narrative is delivered to us as a multiple account. I also include knowledge acquisition as well as the use of primeval, mythical, mystical or theological knowledge by a given speaker. The Symposium is thus a panorama of ideas, some manifest, some latent. As recollection is a more inward and spiritual facet of Plato's philosophy, it produces the more subjective aspects of imparting information. I include it as a type of indirectness since the mind's perception and recollection of things is different from the occurrence of things themselves. That is, just as a real object or event is a copy or a branching off, from the ideal pattern—here I use Platonistic terms—so too, a recollected event is a model, or branching off of the actual event. The mystical factor, in Diotima's tutoring of Socrates, is a further branching off since the acquisition of knowledge comes through a specialized way. This then is the significance of indirectness. All of the Symposium is filtered through someone's version of the event, through the spoken and unspoken particulars of the narrative, by means of subjective recollection. The recorded events comprise more than what was said or done since there is a conscious and unconscious interpretative element. That is, many things are forgotten by the one who recollects (certainly to some purpose) and what is recollected is tainted (either consciously or otherwise).

Far from being a veil that Plato hid behind, a narrative sequence, so brilliantly conceived as this one, though making interpretation of the text more challenging, affects the reader quite differently than if Plato simply delivered the speech of Diotima, (assuming for the moment that Diotima is Plato's mouthpiece). The narrative element is subtle and requires us to consider carefully all the speeches, debates, events and rhetorical flourishes; the reader must examine everything. To illustrate these three types of indirectness, we shall start by looking at the form in which the entire story is given to us.

A. The Indirectness of Polyonymity in Plato

If we look at Apollodorus as the first offshoot from the trunk or as the outer box in a series of boxes, we encounter some interesting data. Apollodorus is a disciple of Socrates and a would-be philosopher himself (172c), while his companions, so he says, are aimless creatures. Here, at the beginning of the Symposium, Plato is already contriving something. As Apollodorus is a disciple of Socrates, will he want to relate the facts accurately? Or, as a philosopher himself, will Apollodorus color the speeches to proffer his own philosophy? Again, given that Apollodorus is a jester of sorts, and according to one reading has a reputation for being crazy (manikos), are we to view the Symposium as a grand jest? Apollodorus, who is about to tell his story to a friend, says that he had been unexpectedly accosted by others who wanted him to recount what Aristodemus had told him about an affair that he had attended that took place many years earlier. Aristodemus in turn quotes each speaker, to the best of his memory, but many years have passed and he did have a bit to drink; he even fell asleep during the aftermath of the banquet. Furthermore, the distance from Apollodorus to Socrates increases, inasmuch as the philosopher in turn quotes Diotima the prophetess. This succession of voices becomes more intriguing still when we consider two more things: first, Diotima speaks as an oracular authority, a touchstone of daemonic wisdom. Though she is cross-examining Socrates in Socratic fashion she is nonetheless a devotee of obscure lore. Oracles are difficult to interpret because their content may possess more than one application. Next, we the readers, as well as the readers of Plato's day, are removed from the narrator of this story in space and time since Apollodorus is not addressing us but his fellows. We thus become eavesdroppers as he recounts the story. This tenuous and indirect method of communication is heightened further by the confusion Apollodorus' companions experience in not knowing how much time had passed since the banquet occurred. Moreover, there is uncertainty about the source of the information since Glaucon is introduced as having been given some account of the banquet, but it turns out to have been an unclear report. Apollodorus seeks to set the record straight especially as he later verified his account with Socrates. Nevertheless, he ultimately leaves out of account much of what happened as he quotes Aristodemus, who also forgot much of what occurred. Furthermore, we do not know to what degree Aristodemus or Apollodorus may have colored the events intentionally or otherwise. Plato seems to be offering with one hand what he takes away with the other. Apollodorus strives for accuracy, but the story has come to us by means of such a tenuous and indirect route. Is Plato lending verisimilitude to the Symposium or is another interest being served?

The second branch is Aristodemus. He is exhorted to attend the banquet by Socrates. When he arrives, he experiences some embarrassment over having come unbidden and alone. Agathon assures him that he was unable to find him previously or he would have invited him. Plato is introducing a chance element here, similar to when Apollodorus' friend stumbled upon him. We learn little else about Aristodemus since he becomes a silent witness of the events. The emphasis shifts when he arrives. The concern over the whereabouts of Socrates predominates. When Socrates later arrives, the next focus is upon Agathon, whose recent victory on the stage is the occasion for the banquet. We read later that more than thirty thousand Greeks witnessed his triumph, which was followed by a victory sacrifice. This prepares us to keep Agathon in mind as we read.

When the speakers at the banquet start to converse, the next branch occurs. Including Aristodemus, the speech makers are seven in number. It is decided that drinking should be done for pleasure rather than for intoxication. At Eryximachus' suggestion, the men agree to make Eros the subject of their discourse (177a). Eryximachus tells us that Phaedrus, who is incidentally his beloved, has more than once lamented the fact that while other gods have had suitable paeans written of them, Eros has none. Plato again introduces a branching off, a feature of indirect communication, since Eryximachus is speaking on Phaedrus' behalf. We see that Plato is so very much insistent on this method. After all agree to speak on the theme of Eros, Phaedrus is selected to make the first offering (178a). He declares that Eros, being among the oldest of deities, deserves to be praised as he encourages loyalty and bravery among men. Pausanias, the second speaker, states that there are two Erotes, not one: a heavenly and a popular, or vulgar, Eros (180c). No action alone is to be praised or censured but as it is done with honorable or ignoble intentions. Eryximachus, a doctor, agrees that there are two Erotes. He states that just as positive and negative forces in nature and within the body must be harmonized and balanced, so too, must base Eros be held in check (not destroyed) while the Heavenly Eros must be kindled (186a). Clearly Plato is not at all sympathetic with these three speeches. They are each presented intelligently, and in ways poetically, but each miss the mark, for reasons that ought to be clear later. The first two are theological, homiletical and ethical in nature while the third is pseudo-scientific. Plato is setting the stage for the events that lie ahead. If we liken the Symposium to a play, the prologue would consist of the events leading up to the banquet and these first three speeches would comprise the first act. The fourth speaker, Aristophanes, takes a different approach (189c). His concern is not with the differing Erotes but with man's divergent nature. His narrative, while using theological and mythological ideas, is really a psychological exposition on sexual desire, coupled with an admonition. Departing from the former speakers, Agathon declares that none of his predecessors have truly praised Eros. He seeks to praise the god rightly and then enumerate his benefits, saying that Eros is the youngest of the gods and is all-beautiful, noble and inspires self-control. His speech does not show the moral concerns that we find in that of Aristophanes. He seems to press on heedless of the importance of what is at stake. While Phaedrus and Pausanias seek to moralize, Eryximachus to strive for scientific explanations and Aristophanes to examine the psychological impetus of Eros, Agathon speaks great wispy clouds of nothingness. Beautiful wisps indeed, but vapid.

In the speech of Socrates, on the authority of Diotima, and perhaps anticipating Hegel, he states that eros (the force eros, not the god Eros) is neither positive nor negative, but an intermediate term (202a). Eros, being the offspring of Resource and Poverty, is thus a child of two opposites. Desire is not just for the sexual, though all desire is for the good. Furthermore, the desire for reproduction is a striving after immortality. Eros ultimately leads to the contemplation of, and the desire for, Beauty itself. As Aristophanes praised Eros now as god, now as a primal force within man, Socrates actually denies its divinity. Not surprisingly, pride of place goes to Socrates since he is the last scheduled speaker and delivers by far the longest speech. He recounts his training under Diotima where she plays the role of the teacher-questioner and he the neophyte. As stated earlier this extends the indirectness another branch. Why Plato uses her is not entirely clear. Perhaps love is best introduced by a female. Perhaps it illustrates Socrates' humility. Or again, including a woman of divination reminds Plato's readers of Socrates' statement in the Apology that he was guided by a daemon. Plato could be attempting to canonize his philosophical ideas as divinely inspired. Moreover, since the speech makers have decided to praise a god that Plato deems not to be a god, it might be considered less shocking for Socrates to introduce the spiritual or daemonic element so that theology would not be sharply overturned by philosophy and thus sidetrack the young Agathon. Plato maintains the focus on Socrates, since Alcibiades, who is the last to speak, strides into the room fully intoxicated, behaving impudently with his humorous gibes, only to disrupt the plan to praise Eros and praise Socrates instead. This naturally leads to our second type of indirectness.

B. The Indirectness of Narrative Form in Plato

The indirectness of narrative form, which we could not avoid touching upon while discussing polyonymity, is also an indirect narrative facet of Plato's communication. Apart from the speeches themselves there are incidents, remarks, and subtle clues that are also communicative events. They are a type of indirectness since they themselves communicate apart from the verbal exchanges. To cite examples, we read that Aristophanes was overcome with the hiccoughs (186c). These hiccoughs prevent him from taking the number three position. As a result, he speaks in the fourth, that is, the middle position. This may very well indicate that Plato places special importance on his speech. It is indeed a more interesting discourse than that of his predecessors, and for that matter, that of Agathon and Alcibiades as well. There are other critical purposes served, however, by these personal and narrative touches in the Symposium. One can see the banquet as a battleground. Socrates, the "enemy" of Athens, with his persistent questioning of the Athenian youth, was seen as a threat to the order of piety to the gods and service to the city-state. His philosophy, which focused on universals such as justice, goodness and the beautiful, was thought by many to threaten the ordered society of the Athenians. Aristophanes, on the other hand, may be seen as the protector of conservative Athenian culture, including piety to the gods. In this light, the Symposium can be viewed as a conflict between the universal and the particular. Since the banquet was given by Agathon to celebrate his victory at the theatre, and Agathon serves as an idealized Athenian youth of talent and beauty, we may regard him as the quarry of each opponent. If we consider that Aristophanes may have used his hiccoughs (or feigned them) to change the order of the speeches, placing his just before that of Agathon as a bolster for the young man, then we can further appreciate Plato's narrative choices, and marvel at them. Furthermore, the speech of Agathon, though quite artful, is devoid of any great intelligence or insight. This at once makes him more vulnerable, so that the reader becomes concerned with the salvation of the young man. His vulnerability opens him up to be corrected by Socrates' logical assistance. Plato may be showing us that Athenian youth, idealized in Agathon, are at risk of being lost in the particular, and that only the universal as proffered by Socrates can save them. Socrates' speech is preceded by his cross-examination of Agathon, which again emphasizes that Agathon is at risk.

Before the banquet we find Socrates delayed for a while until he should complete his meditation (175a). Perhaps we are to see him as preparing himself mentally and spiritually for the coming encounter. No doubt he was hygienically prepared, wearing shoes and being freshly bathed. This fact adds a seductive aspect to the story, given that Socrates told Aristodemus on the way that he would go as one "beautiful to the beautiful" (174a). If Socrates' motives are as pure as Alcibiades would have us believe, we may see this preparation as a "holy seduction" of the youth, a seduction out of a trivial life into the life of philosophy, that is, the love of wisdom. At the conclusion of the banquet, after the others have left, we find Socrates, Aristophanes and Agathon remaining (223c). I leave Aristodemus out of the account except as a silent and sleepy witness. As the night wears on Aristodemus awakens to find the three discussing drama, a topic that would surely captivate the young man. Aristophanes finally dozes off, leaving Socrates and Agathon to talk. Lastly Agathon slumbers. Is Plato portraying Aristophanes the loser, since he left his post, so to speak, and Socrates the victor, in this battle? Earlier, after Socrates delivered Diotima's teachings, Aristophanes was about to speak up to address certain misgivings he had. Before he could do so, Alcibiades bursts in upon the scene, used by Plato effectively to cut Aristophanes off. And if that is not bad enough, the young man who bursts in fights over, and makes an encomium of, Socrates! Earlier in the evening Plato reiterated through Eryximachus, and later Alcibiades, that Socrates was the stoutest in body and apparently incapable of getting drunk (176c; 221a). He is also the surest in reasoning. Plato is almost portraying the philosopher as a superhuman. At any rate, Plato demarcates the crucial issue at hand, but declines to speak to us directly. We at once see how much more profound and powerful this method of writing is. As emphasized above, this is indirect communication. If Plato had told us all of his purposes directly, we should find ourselves less absorbed in his material, and in turn, disappointed for having been spoon fed. The manifest message is satisfying and thought provoking. But to an even greater degree, the latent content yields a sub-stratum of ideas that prove to be more stimulating; they even belie some of the manifest material.

As already illustrated, the Symposium says so much more than what each speaker says. Without the employment of multiple speakers and pertinent narrative events, Plato's potential to communicate would be limited. Indirect discourse is not a means to avoid responsibility for one's creation, but is rather a powerful communicative method.

C. The Indirectness of Subjectivity in Plato

The banquet is recounted to us through the indirect means of memory, not directly, so to speak, from the hand of Plato. Since it was part of Plato's artful use of communication to include Aristodemus and Apollodorus in the telling of the story, we must explore his motives for doing so. Apollodorus uses Aristodemus as an eyewitness source. He also corroborates the story with Socrates. Plato seems to be assuring his readers of the reliability of the account. On the other hand, Aristodemus tells Apollodorus that he forgot portions of some speeches, other speeches in their entirety, was drinking throughout and fell asleep after the banquet, that is, during the closing scene with Socrates, Aristophanes and Agathon. Moreover, Apollodorus cannot remember portions of Aristodemus' account of the banquet.

But memory is only the beginning of the more subjective aspects of the Symposium. Plato's theory of recollection and knowledge, as expounded in the Phaedo, the Meno and the Philebus, introduces more coherently this third aspect of indirectness. Socrates explains the difference between memory and recollection in the Philebus.

Socrates: Memory, it would, I think, be right to call the preservation of sensation.

Protarchus: Quite so.

Socrates: Then by 'recollection' we mean, do we not, something different from memory?

Protarchus: I suppose so.

Socrates: I will suggest the point of difference.

Protarchus: What is it?

Socrates: When that which has been experienced by the soul in common with the body is recaptured, so far as may be, by and in the soul itself apart from the body, then we speak of 'recollecting' something. Is that not so?

Protarchus: Undoubtedly.

Socrates: And further, when the soul has lost the memory of a sensation or what it has learned resumes that memory within itself and goes over the old ground, we regularly speak of these processes as 'recollections' (Phlb. 34a-c).

Whereas memory is ultimately tied to the body, recollection, though experienced by the body in common with the soul, is ultimately independent of the body. It is the spiritual or psychological aspect of remembering.

In the Meno Socrates helps a slave to reason through the complexities of a geometric problem. Since the slave can pursue accurately the argument without having been schooled in geometrical matters, he consequently acquired this ability in a previous life. Socrates makes use of a diagram that acts as a stimulus to retrieve the repressed knowledge. That is, sensory input stimulates recollection, which is prior knowledge. While memory is the common means of retrieving information or sensations, recollection, which is of primary importance to Plato, is a tool for acquiring knowledge.

In the Phaedo we find Socrates discoursing on the acquisition of knowledge as a recollection of things from a previous incarnation. Ostensibly, this idea is put forth by Socrates as a way to comfort his friends. That is, if a man can learn anything he must have already known something about what he is going to learn or he would not be equipped to learn anything. And if he has known something without having been taught it (in this life), he must have learned it before his birth. And if the soul existed prior to birth it stands to reason that it survives death, and thus his friends have no cause for grief. This innate and prior knowledge is triggered into consciousness by sensory input. Plato is striving to work beyond a two-fold paradox. Namely, if a person does not know something, he cannot learn it since he knows nothing about it. If, on the other hand, he knows it, he does not need to learn it. Plato uses recollection to get beyond this problematical hurdle. Incidentally, his logic is flawed since he merely transfers the problem to a previous incarnation. This, however, need not concern us.

Since it is in the Phaedo where Socrates talks at length on the theory of recollection, it is interesting to note that that dialogue also uses indirect discourse. That is, Phaedo recalls to someone the events he himself witnessed surrounding the death of Socrates. The Symposium, going beyond this indirect method of discourse, is delivered to us through a triple memory. Memory and recollection thus are the means by which Plato communicates with his readers. Memory is employed in that Apollodorus and Aristodemus try to remember the events surrounding the banquet. Recollection is employed in two ways, one broad and one more specific. First, the memory of Apollodorus and Aristodemus is not mechanical. It is colored by psychological and interpretive factors. One must keep mindful of their possible respective agendas throughout the Symposium. Secondly, and more specifically, Socrates traces the path of his instruction on erotica from Diotima. As Socrates guided the slave through the complexities of a geometric problem, Diotima takes Socrates through the complexities of eros, the good, the beautiful and the middle term. Here we find a psychological, subjective and spiritual aspect of communication. Plato is thus introducing a theory of his indirectly, elsewhere propounded more directly. After finding all of the events of the banquet communicated to us through the indirect means of memory and recollection, we see that knowledge acquisition as a whole is specialized and is integral to the Symposium's purpose.

Furthermore, every speech in the Symposium is concerned with certain primeval, mythological, mystical or theological problems. Phaedrus talks about the ancient Ouranian gods, Pausanias talks about the dual nature of Eros, Eryximachus discusses the religious expert and seer. Aristophanes examines our primeval nature. The gods created humankind and distributed him into three sexes: male-male, female-female and male-female. Man's body was twofold, equipped with four arms and four legs. To counter his rebellious aggression and presumption the gods sliced him in two, fashioning him into what is our present state. If we do not conduct ourselves circumspectly, Aristophanes warns, we may be cut again. This speech differs from the others in that it includes a most serious admonition, notwithstanding its charm and humor, namely, to fulfill properly our duties to the gods, that is, the real gods such as Apollo, Zeus, and so on, rather than the Ouranian gods, such as Chaos or Gaia, who were introduced into the Symposium by Phaedrus. Contrary to Phaedrus and Pausanias, Aristophanes appears to place Eros among the Olympians rather than the Ouranian gods. At other times he treats him like a force or an inner drive (though perhaps guided by the god) that compels people to seek their other prelapsarian half. He stresses the importance of Zeus' role in his mythology over that of Eros. Agathon contradicts the earlier speakers to proffer his own understanding of the mythology, uttering little in the way of philosophy, but does attempt theology as he talks on Eros and Necessity. Socrates consults a seer to learn erotica. In sum, all those who speak on Eros resort to some extra-mundane knowledge. Just as recollection is a means of leaping over the hurdle of ignorance by means of a pre-existent knowledge, so too do these speakers overstep conventional knowledge acquisition to impart their theories on Eros.

Plato's Influence on Kierkegaardian Dialectic

One writer who was greatly influenced by Plato was the nineteenth century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. In point of fact his doctoral dissertation was on irony (see The Concept of Irony), particularly Socratic irony. Kierkegaard's own method of communication has proven to be equally perplexing, if not more so, for the interpreter. We will examine the dialectic of indirectness in a work of Kierkegaard, taking note of the three types of indirectness.

A. The Indirectness of Polyonymity in Kierkegaard

Kierkegaard himself called his method of writing indirect discourse. Like Plato, he utilized a variety of "voices" but in an astonishing manner. Most of Kierkegaard's philosophical works, except a few polemical, anti-ecclesiastical tracts composed just prior to his death and the edifying discourses, were written pseudonymously. Each pseudonym operates from a different philosophical platform. Whereas Plato engaged different voices in a dialogue or discussion, Kierkegaard constructed entire works or portions of works written in one or more of his own unique dialects. These "authors" remain constant throughout the Kierkegaardian corpus; a particular pseudonym will write several works from a consistent and defensible position. Many of the considerations that we made in approaching the Symposium must be made with Kierkegaard. The reader must determine whether a certain "author" is speaking with Kierkegaard's voice, presenting a particular viewpoint, exposing a fallacious argument, or again, is an aspect of Kierkegaard's brooding presence. The best approach to both authors is to see them as residing over their works, much as Christian theology sees God presiding over His creation, with no one individual exhausting His being or ideality, while some creatures may directly oppose Him. In this sense, we might look at the pseudonyms as free agents. Kierkegaard's indirect method of communication is compelling because it extends over the period of a decade. Moreover, he took much delight in seeing the general public baffled by his technique, although members of academia did decipher his plan.

Kierkegaard's dialectic can be illustrated by discussing a work of his that is modeled in part on the Symposium, and like it, employs indirect communication, that is, a dialectic of indirectness. In 1845 he published Stages on Life's Way. This work is divided into three parts, each dealing consecutively with one of the three stages, or "existence spheres" of life, as he called them, that is, the esthetic, the ethical and the religious. While Kierkegaard favored the term "stages" earlier in his writings, we are not to conceive of them necessarily as periods of life that one proceeds through in sequence, but rather, as paradigms of existence. Moreover, many individuals might not traverse a certain stage, for example, the religious. This work was a sequel to his Either/Or, published two years earlier. There, the esthetic and the ethical were presented under two pseudonyms, but Kierkegaard refrained from treating the religious sphere. Like the Symposium, Kierkegaard creates a series of boxes within boxes, a stemma of indirect discourse, which is a key to appreciating his unique esthetic.

In the Stages Kierkegaard begins with a brief introduction by one Hilarius Bookbinder who claims to have stumbled upon the three works of the Stages in his office years after he had inadvertently failed to return them to their rightful owner (p. 3). He adds that it may be strange for a bookbinder to publish, but his sense of duty overrides any reticence he might have. Each of the three portions of the Stages is in turn penned by a different "author". Lastly, Kierkegaard's banquet, the first of the three parts, is yet again a Symposium of speech makers created by him, some who had penned prior works of his. It is this first, that is, the esthetic, portion of the Stages that will form part of our comparison. That section is called In Vino Veritas: A Recollection. The ostensible author of this banquet is William Afham. "Af ham" is Danish for "by himself".

The invitees are Johannes the seducer, popularized in Either/Or, Victor Eremita, "author" of Either/Or, Constantin Constantius, the pseudonymous author of Repetition, and two unnamed persons called the Fashion Designer and the Young Man. The young man is likely the author of part one of Either/Or, known simply as A, as well as the subject of Constantius' Repetition. William Afham attends as well, but like Aristodemus, we have no recorded speech by him and might, if we are inattentive, forget his presence. Thus four of the five guests who deliver speeches are pseudonymous authors already used in Kierkegaard's published works. Eremita is the author who, like Bookbinder, collected the anonymous works discovered by him. Johannes is the subject (and perhaps author) of the anonymous "Diary of a Seducer", which is part of Either/Or. Constantius is the author of Repetition, a work concerned with the unity of personhood and change, who introduces a young man in that work. The latter is none other than the young man who speaks first in the banquet. Kierkegaard's discourse is indirect because he does not tell us any of these things. The reader is to supply them. As with Plato's use of indirect communication, the effect is powerful. We can trace a path from Kierkegaard, through H. Bookbinder, through Afham and finally through the (pseudonymous) speakers.

B. The Indirectness of Narrative Form in Kierkegaard

Kierkegaard makes use of the second aspect of indirectness, namely, descriptive narrative elements that communicate, though to a lesser extent than Plato does. The description of the Kierkegaardian banquet begins with the guests and the host arranging its particulars. After months of deliberation they agree to meet away from the city in a country setting where servants would attend them and women would be excluded (p. 21). There is no occasion for this banquet corresponding to Agathon's victory. They agree to meet in a home that will be redecorated so that it is uniquely prepared for the banquet. In addition, a demolition crew will stand by to undo all of the preparations so that no trace of the banquet would remain. Perhaps we are to think that only recollection will provide the knowledge of what occurred since no artifacts will survive.

In this banquet (heterosexual) erotic love becomes the theme. Before making their eulogies, the guests agree that all the speeches are to be made in vino. That is, no one will speak before feeling the effects of the wine, nor, on the other hand, allow himself to become fully intoxicated. Johannes, declaring that he is unsure of this plan, boasts that he becomes more sober the more he imbibes. This corresponds to Socrates' astonishing endurance. Just as the guests at Plato's Symposium decide to drink, not to get drunk, but according to their pleasure, so Kierkegaard's speakers drink with some moderation. In the former banquet the god perhaps is thought to inspire the speakers as they speak of him. In the latter case, wine itself is the means and inspiration to praise not a god, but a concept.

The first speaker is the Young Man. Far from praising erotic love, he denounces it as irrational and appealing to uncontrollable forces within man that are destructive (p. 31). In a word, he sees eros as a comic and mocking force. After citing examples of the comic, he states that to a third party eros is always ridiculous. Apparently the Young Man cannot submit to eros because he is his own third party. The next speaker, Constantin Constantius, speaks of woman as a jest (p. 47). Seducers are fools for making such a fuss about the pursuit. To him, eros has overreached himself. The third speaker, Victor Eremita, Latin for the victorious hermit, thanks God that he was born a man and not a woman (p. 56). He sees woman as a mediation. She awakens gallantry or eros or even the Infinite in man. But as a middle term she does not ascend to the dignity of man, though meriting some honor. This has some correlation to Socrates' speech inasmuch as the idea of the middle term is introduced. Considering the great effort that Kierkegaard exercised to combat Hegelianism we are tempted to think that he sympathizes little with Eremita, though this is immaterial. The Fashion Designer speaks next (p. 65). He reduces all of woman's desires and goals to a passion for adornment. Whether a woman is pleasing a suitor or worshipping in church, she is most concerned with the god of fashion and the designer is her high priest. Lastly, Johannes the seducer speaks (p. 71). He is appalled by all the twaddle he has had to endure from the other speakers. He states that woman's highest calling is in being the object of man's seduction. The period of seduction must not be culminated in marriage since that would be a stagnation. No, the seducer, like Don Juan, moves from one woman to another. Woman becomes a goal to Johannes, not a victim. The god Eros seeks its quarry and then flees.

In the Symposium and in In Vino Veritas alike, the reader finds that Eros is not truly praised by anyone, with the possible exception of Agathon; and his speech possesses more form than content. Socrates did claim earlier to know nothing but love-matters. It is unclear whether the gadfly or Dionysus has the last laugh on eros. In Kierkegaard's banquet, erotic love is not truly praised either, but is denounced by The Young Man. Constantius denigrates woman, Eremita sees eros as a middle term, the Fashion designer substitutes vanity for eros, and Johannes, the most devoted of all, exalts woman, or more correctly, the pursuit of woman, but not the abiding presence of eros. Is Plato telling us that only Socrates possesses and manifests the true concept of eros? Does Kierkegaard identify himself with any of his speakers or is he pointing us back to Socrates by way of Plato?

The ostensible purpose of the banquet is not apparently Kierkegaard's primary concern. Just as Plato's speech makers address the topic of eros, or more accurately, seek to praise the god Eros, we find that each, except the naive Agathon, has other agendas. This is in harmony with what Socrates says, that he had misunderstood the whole point of the banquet and could not participate unless he were allowed to address the subject in his own way. Since the praise of Eros is presumably not the primary concern of the Symposium or of In Vino Veritas, it must be a means of introducing greater concerns. Each work thus provides an opportunity for the authors to address a variety of issues. This object could not be attained in conventional treatise composition. The stemmata from author through speakers, coupled with the narrative methodology, create pathways for other concerns.

C. The Indirectness of Subjectivity in Kierkegaard

Recollection as a medium of communication is the third method of indirectness used in common by these authors. As Plato used the triple memory of Socrates, Aristodemus and Apollodorus, so Kierkegaard uses a triple route of communication in Stages On Life's Way. At the one end of the stemmata we find the unidentified man who left the documents at the bookbinder. Next we have the bookbinder who publishes the work. It is subtitled "Studies by Various Persons". Afham is then introduced as the narrator of the first portion, which is the banquet. Of further interest is the fact that Kierkegaard's schema uses a series of stemma that turns inward upon itself since the speech makers are for the most part previously published pseudonyms of Kierkegaard. For our present purposes, however, we take note that this nestled group of boxes, like that used by Plato, relies on the memory of someone. The element of recollection is seen not only in Kierkegaard's use of Afham to relate the banquet, but also through his theory on recollection.

Afham introduces the banquet with a discourse on memory versus recollection reminding us of the Philebus. This is also no doubt an allusion to the effort of Aristodemus and of Apollodorus to recall the particulars of the banquet. Like Aristodemus, Afham attends the banquet in apparent silence. Before reporting the specifics of the affair he muses on the idea of recollection. He states that it differs from memory.

Afham introduces the banquet with a discourse on memory versus recollection reminding us of the Philebus. This is also no doubt an allusion to the effort of Aristodemus and of Apollodorus to recall the particulars of the banquet. Like Aristodemus, Afham attends the banquet in apparent silence. Before reporting the specifics of the affair he muses on the idea of recollection. He states that it differs from memory.

Remembering is only a vanishing condition. Through memory, the experience presents itself to receive the consecration of recollection.... The old person loses memory...yet the old person has something poetic about him.... Recollection is ideality, but as such it is strenuous and conscientious in a way completely different from indiscriminate memory (p. 9f).

Kierkegaard and Plato alike see recollection as something inward and spiritual, as opposed to memory. In Plato, one possesses the knowledge of something from a former incarnation, which he does not yet "know" in this lifetime until he is properly stimulated by sensory data to recollect the buried information.

Kierkegaard's (or his pseudonym's) theory of recollection and memory is based on a belief whereby he sees the mind more like a tabula rasa, naturally dispensing with the issue of reincarnation. The famous dictum that existence precedes essence, though not coined by Kierkegaard, still provides an adequate means of understanding his thought. He asserts that man, though acquiring his existence from God, creates his own essence by making life-decisions. Rather than introduce the idea of a former incarnation to prove the immortality of the soul, Kierkegaard puts an almost Proustian idea into the mouth of Afham. Memory is the more mechanical aspect of retrieving souvenirs from the past. But recollection, as with Plato, is rooted in the spiritual side of man. It is the soul's inward and thoughtful turning toward that which has directed it and will direct it, that is, spirit or the eternal; and the self is spirit. We do not have space to adequately assess Kierkegaard's anthropology. A word or two may suffice. Kierkegaard sees the self as an ever-changing entity, so much in flux as to be described more like a verb than as a noun. In his The Sickness Unto Death, he begins cryptically:

A human being is spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is the self. But what is the self? The self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relation's relating itself to itself in the relation; the self is not the relation but is the relation's relating itself to itself. A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity, in short, a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two. Considered in this way a human being is still not a self. In the relation between two, the relation is the third as a negative unity, and the two relate to the relation and in the relation to the relation; thus under the qualification of the psychical the relation between the psychical and the physical is a relation. If, however, the relation relates itself to itself, this relation is the positive third, and this is the self (p. 13).

Though this reading is quite baffling at first, it is not impenetrable. Influenced by the same Hegel he combated, he saw the attractiveness of the middle term. The self is the relation's relating, that is, the mediating activity that resides within opposites, such as the infinite and the finite, necessity and freedom, and so on. The self is not the relation or synthesis created by the thesis and antithesis, but is found in the activity of the relation, what Kierkegaard calls the relation's relating. It operates in and through the tensions created by the opposites. Kierkegaard stresses that the relation proper is a "third as a negative unity"; the positive third, on the other hand, is the "relation's relating". That is, it is not a static mediation but an active one that constitutes the true mediation, which is self. Seen in this light, memory falls into a category in opposition to forgetting. It is an extreme. Recollection, on the other hand, to use Kierkegaardian language, is the product of the relation's relating itself within the self. It is an act of spirit since it is a term lying between the psychical and the physical. The physical records the senses of the event and the psychical is the identifying and the interpretative element that processes the memory. But since Kierkegaard is concerned with the relation's relating, it is the entire process of retrieving a recollection within the self that is important. Kierkegaard's synthesis may be an elaboration on the middle term introduced by Diotima through Socrates (202a). At any rate, recollection in Kierkegaard must be seen as a psychical happening.

In this light, Stages on Life's Way is greater than In Vino Veritas, which is greater than the ostensible purpose of the banquet as well as the speeches themselves, though they are of course important within their own sphere. As with Plato's Symposium, what is manifest may be of much less significance than what is latent. When we read Kierkegaard we are compelled to examine his entire corpus since he is at the head of the pseudonyms. In Vino Veritas must be interpreted in light of his life's work. Kierkegaard's concern was with the self, as quoted above, and with the self vis-à-vis God, or as he sometimes phrased it, "the individual before God". Thus his banquet, the esthetic representation of the three stages or existence-spheres, must be read in light of his higher theological and philosophical purposes.


As I mentioned in the introduction, there are three general manifestations of indirectness. First there is the use of indirect discourse, or polyonymity, seen as a branching off from the real authorship of the work. Second, there are the narrative aspects of the work that communicate without direct explanation from the author. Lastly, there is the medium of recollection, as well as other subjective elements, such as mythology and theology, all of which add an esthetic or even spiritual element through which the entire work is given. These two works are appealing because of the various viewpoints and attitudes presented. They are at once serious and comical, with characters full of wit or pomposity, personalities cynical, religious, conservative or radical. The narrative form and the indirectness of voices help the reader to involve himself in each viewpoint. What is more important is that the indirect method helps the reader to consider larger purposes at work. The reader may remain unconvinced by an argument, but the arguments are only part, albeit an important one, of indirect communication. I trust the reader has not adopted the view that the form that these authors use is just a medium, or a shell, which may be discarded. Not at all. The forms are an integral part of the works.

This method of indirect discourse is the least authoritarian writing imaginable. The reader may simply enjoy these works at their face value. He may wish to offer his own encomium to Eros or join in with Alcibiades and praise Socrates. Again, he may sympathize with Kierkegaard's young man and decry eros. Or will Dionysus have the last laugh?