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'Despair' in Kierkegaard's Either/Or
Abstract

The category of despair plays a central role in Kierkegaard's pseudonymous corpus, but its meaning is controversial. This paper offers an interpretation of its use in Either/Or (in particular, in the claim the aesthetic life is despair and the ethical life freedom from despair). After examining and rejecting two recent alternatives, I argue that despair is the conscious or unconscious assumption of a passive or fatalistic attitude toward one's existence, which attitude is informed by a misconstrual of the nature of human agency.