The Seduction of Kierkegaard’s Aesthetic Sphere

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Though sensitivity to pedagogy infuses all of Søren Kierkegaard’s writings, Kierkegaard’s voice in education, and moral education specifically, is scant. This is striking considering the range and depth of his influence in philosophy and theology. Given the ethico-religious telos that animates Kierkegaard’s project, and the amazing variety of texts that illuminate and enact the existential journey into lived virtue, Kierkegaard offers a wealth of resources for pedagogies that aspire to cultivate virtue. Yet Kierkegaard does, as his pseudonym Johannas Climacus intends, create difficulties. Specifically, he exposes how difficult it is to become and remain virtuous. Moreover, he reveals how difficult it is to teach others how to become virtuous, all the while enacting a pedagogy that intends to do just that. In this essay I make a case for Kierkegaard’s indispensable contribution to a pedagogy that aims to impart virtue. Specifically, I examine the challenge the aesthetic sphere poses for virtue ethics, noting the interior moves that precede, undergird, and sustain the transition from the aesthetic to the ethical sphere. I then explore Kierkegaard’s pedagogical approach that aims to reach the aesthete.


Book chapter from Varieties of Virtue Ethics