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The Ethics of Authorship

Communication, Seduction, and Death in Hegel and Kierkegaard

Daniel Berthold

Publication Year: 2011

This is a book about the ethics of authorship. Most directly, it explores different conceptualizations of the responsibilities of the author to the reader. But it also engages the question of what styles of authorship allow these responsibilities to be met. Style itself is an ethical issue, since the relation between the writing subject and the reader--and the dynamics of authority and influence, of gift giving and friendship in this relation--have as much to do with how one writes as what one says.The two writers who serve as the main subjects for this work, the German idealist philosopher G. W. F. Hegel and the Danish Christian existentialist Sren Kierkegaard, invite us to confront particularly challenging questions about the ethics of authorship. Each in his own way explores styles of authorship that employ a variety of strategies of seduction in order to entice the reader into his narratives, strategies that at least on the surface appear to be fundamentally manipulative and unethical. Further, both seek to enact their own deaths as authors, effectively disappearing as reliable guides for the reader. That might also seem to be ethically irresponsible, an abandonment of the reader, who has been seduced only to be deserted.This is the first work to undertake a sustained questioning of Kierkegaard's central distinction between his own indirectstyle of communication and the (purportedly) directstyle of Hegel's philosophy. Hegel was in fact a much more subtle practitioner of style than Kierkegaard represents him as being, indeed, a practitioner whose style is in the service of an ambitious reconceptualization of the ethics of authorship. As for Kierkegaard, his own indirect style raises a whole series of ethical questions about how the reader is imagined in relation to the author. There is finally an either/or between Hegel and Kierkegaard, just not the one Kierkegaard proposes as between an author devoid of ethics and one who makes possible a true ethics of authorship. Rather, the either/or is between two competing practices of authorship, one daunting with the cadences of a highly technical style, the other delightful for its elegance and playfulness--but both powerful experiments in the ethics of style.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

I have learned more about the ethics of authorship from my students at Eastern Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Napanoch, New York, than I have from any of the excellent books and articles I have read on the topic...

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Introduction: Rorschach Tests

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pp. 1-13

What the Greek comic playwright Aristophanes did for Socrates, the Danish Christian humorist (as he often called himself ) Søren Kierkegaard did for Hegel. With delectably malicious wit, these master tormentors reduced...

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1. A Question of Style

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pp. 14-38

Kierkegaard defines his authorship in a negative space in relation to Hegel, the Great Philosopher, who serves as the ground against which the figure of Kierkegaard emerges and takes on his own identity. At the heart...

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2. Live or Tell

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pp. 39-63

Kierkegaard most often represents his difference from Hegel in terms of the contrast between action and thinking about action, existing and contemplating existence, living and philosophizing about living...

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3. Kierkegaard’s Seductions

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pp. 64-84

In 1843, at the age of twenty-nine, Søren Kierkegaard published Either/Or, a nearly eight-hundred-page book (the first of six published in 1843) written largely during a several-month visit to Berlin where he had ensconced himself...

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4. Hegel’s Seductions

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pp. 85-100

whether we think of Kierkegaard’s authorship as seductive in the sense of eroticizing the reader so as to devour her or as an emancipation of the reader into autonomy—the two readings we considered at the close...

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5. Talking Cures

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pp. 101-127

Franz Anton Mesmer, the early pioneer of hypnotism and animal magnetism, claimed that he once experimented for three months with thinking without words. In Chapter 2 we saw that Sartre’s Roquentin conducted...

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6. A Penchant for Disguise: The Death (and Rebirth) of the Author in Kierkegaard and Nietzsche

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pp. 128-157

On October 2, 1855, at the age of forty-two, Søren Kierkegaard, returning from the bank with the last installment of his inheritance, collapsed on the street in Copenhagen. He was brought to Frederick’s hospital...

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7. Passing Over: The Death of the Author in Hegel

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pp. 158-179

Surely no major philosopher has been as criticized, scorned, lampooned, dismissed, dismantled, and deconstructed as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Already in 1819, during the height of Hegel’s fame, Arthur Schopenhauer was writing...

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Conclusion: The Melancholy of Having Finished

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pp. 180-181

At the end of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil (or rather the provisional end: Nietzsche then adds an ‘‘Aftersong,’’ the poem ‘‘From High Mountains’’), he expresses his melancholy at having finished...

Aftersong: From Low Down

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p. 183


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pp. 185-207


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pp. 209-221

Name Index

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pp. 223-225

Subject Index

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pp. 227-232

E-ISBN-13: 9780823248902
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823233946
Print-ISBN-10: 0823233944

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 708566766
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Ethics of Authorship

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Subject Headings

  • Kierkegaard, Søren, 1813-1855.
  • Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 1770-1831.
  • Authorship -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Philosophy -- Authorship -- Moral and ethical aspects.
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