PHIL 30 Intro To Existentialism


Deanza college

Question Description

Answer at least one of the questions below. Your answer should be approximately 250 words. You do NOT have to answer all of the questions!

  1. In "Rotation of Crops", the author (I will call him "A", rather than Kierkegaard) offers an account of the nature of boredom and a series of proposed solutions to it. Explain what boredom is, according to A. How does A propose to avoid boredom? What is your assessment of A's strategies for avoiding boredom?
  2. The author of "Rotation of Crops" is expresses a view of life that Kierkegaard calls "the aesthetic". What are some salient features of A's outlook? Do you think that A's orientation toward the world is a good one to have, or are there problems with it?
  3. What is the point of Kierkegaard’s discussion of the jewel on the lake, in "The Present Age"? (2) Do you think that the deficiencies he attempts to draw attention to are deficiencies that can be discerned in our own time? Why or why not?
  4. How much of Kierkegaard’s argument in "The Present Age" applies to our own age? Discuss this question carefully, and be sure to make use of a quotation from the text that you think is especially striking or important.

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ROTATION OF CROPS A VENTURE IN A THEORY OF SOCIAL PRUDENCE [ 254 189. . . . . . . £01:L :n:UVtWV :n:A.llGf.lOvl. 190. KUQlWV. tQUYllf.lUtWV . 191. :n:A.UXOVVtWV. KUQlWV. LGXMwv. 192. KUQlWV. See Aristophanis Plutus, v. 189 ff.! CHREMYLOS. . an Allem bekommt man endlich Ueberdruss. An Liebe [at last one has too much of everything. Oflove], KARION. Semmel [rolls], CHREMYLOS. Musenkunst [the arts], KARION. und Zuckerwerk [and sweets). CHREMYLOS. An Ehre [Of honor], KARION. Kuchen [cakes], CHREMYLOS. Tapferkeit [bravery], KARION. und Feigenschnitt [and dried figs). CHREMYLOS. An Ruhm [Offame], KARION. an Riihrei [of scrambled eggs], CHREMYLOS. am Kommando [of authority), KARION. am Gemiis' [of vegetables). See Aristophanes, Plutos, in Droysen's translation. 2 I 255 People with experience maintain that proceeding from a basic principle is supposed to be very reasonable; I yield to them and proceed from the basic principle that all people are boring. Or is there anyone who would be boring enough to contradict me in this regard? This basic principle has to the highest degree the repelling force always required in the negative, which is actually the principle of motion. 3 It is not merely repelling but infinitely repulsive, and whoever has the basic principle behind him must necessarily have infinite momentum for making discoveries. If, then, my thesis is true, a person needs only to ponder how corrupting boredom is for people, tempering his reflections more or less according to his desire to diminish or increase his impetus, and if he wants to press the speed of the motion to the highest point, almost with danger to the locomotive, he needs only to say to himself: Boredom is the root of all evil. It is very curious that boredom, which itself has such a calm and sedate nature, can have such a capacity to initiate motion. The effect that boredom brings about is absolutely magical, but this effect is one not of attraction but of repulsion. How corrupting boredom is, everyone recognizes also with regard to children. As long as children are having a good time, they are always good. This can be said in the strictest sense, for if they at times become unmanageable even while playing, it is really because they are beginning to be bored; boredom is already coming on, but in a different way. Therefore, when selecting a nursemaid, one always considers essentially not only that she is sober, trustworthy, and good-natured but also takes into esthetic consideration whether she knows how to entertain children. Even if she had all the other excellent virtues, one would not hesitate to give her the sack if she lacked this qualification. Here, indeed, the principle is clearly acknowledged, but things go on so curiously in the world, habit and I 257 I 258 286 I 259 Either/Or, I boredom have gained the upper hand to such a degree, that justice is done to esthetics only in the conduct of the nursemaid. It would be quite impossible to prevail if one wanted to demand a divorce because one's wife is boring, or demand that a king be dethroned because he is boring to behold, or that a clergyman be exiled because he is boring to listen to, or that a cabinet minister be dismissed or a journalist be executed because he is frightfully boring. Since boredom advances and boredom is the root of all evil, no wonder, then, that the world goes backwards, that evil spreads. This can be traced back to the very beginning of the world. The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings. Adam was bored because he was alone; therefore Eve was created. 4 Since that moment, boredom entered the world and grew in quantity in exact proportion to the growth of population. Adam was bored alone; then Adam and Eve were bored together; then Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel were bored en famille. After that, the population of the world increased and the nations were bored en masse. To amuse themselves, they hit upon the notion of building a tower so high that it would reach the sky. 5 This notion is just as boring as the tower was high and is a terrible demonstration of how boredom had gained the upper hand. Then they were dispersed around the world, just as people now travel abroad, but they continued to be bored. And what consequences this boredom had: humankind stood tall and fell far, first through Eve, then from the Babylonian tower. On the other hand, what was it that delayed the fall of Rome? It was panis [bread] and circenses [games]. 6 What is being done in our day? Is consideration being given to any means of amusement? On the contrary, our doom is being expedited. There is the idea of convening a consultative assembly. Can anything more boring be imagined, both for the honorable delegates as well as for one who will read and hear about them? The country's financial situation is to be improved by economizing. Can anything more boring be imagined? 71nstead of increasing the debt, they want to pay it off in installments. From what I know about the political situation, it Rotation oJCrops 287 would be easy for Denmark to borrow fifteen million rix-dollars. Why does no one think of this? Now and then we hear that someone is a genius and does not pay his debts; why should a nation not do the same, provided there is agreement? Borrow fifteen million; use it not to payoff our debts but for public entertainment. Let us celebrate the millennium with fun and games. Just as there currently are boxes everywhere for contributions of money, there should be bowls everywhere filled with money. Everything would be free: the theater would be free, prostitutes would be free, rides to Deer Parks would be free, funerals would be free, one's funeral eulogy would be free. I say "free," for if money is always available, everything is free in a way. No one would be allowed to own any property. An exception should be made only for me. I shall set aside for myself one hundred rix-dollars a day deposited in a London bank, partly because I cannot manage on less, partly because I am the one who provided the idea, and finally because no one knows ifI will not be able to think up a new idea when the fifteen million is exhausted. 9What would be the result of this prosperity? All the great would stream to Copenhagen: the greatest artists, actors, and dancers. Copenhagen would become another Athens. What would be the result? All the wealthy would settle in this city. Among others, the emperor of Persia and the king of England would undoubtedly also come here. Here is my second idea: kidnap the emperor. Someone may say that then there would be a revolution in Persia, a new emperor placed on the throne-it has frequently happened before-and the price of the old emperor would slump. In that case, my idea is that we should sell him to the Turks. They will undoubtedly know how to make money out of him. In addition, there is yet another circumstance that our politicians seem to ignore entirely. Denmark holds the balance of power in Europe. A more propitious position is inconceivable. This I know from my own experience. I once held the balance of power in a family. I could do as I wished. I never suffered, but the others always did. 288 Either/Or, I o may my words penetrate your ears, you who are in high [ 260 places to counsel and control, you king's men and men of the people, you wise and sensible citizens of all classes! You just watch out! Old Denmark is foundering-it is a matter oflife and death; it is foundering on boredom, which is the most fatal of all. In olden days, whoever eulogized the deceased most handsomely became the king.1O In our age, the king ought to be the one who delivers the best witticism and the crown prince the one who provides the occasion for the best witticIsm. But how you do carry me away, beautiful stirring enthusiasm! Should I raise my voice this way in order to address my contemporaries, to initiate them into my wisdom? Not at all, for my wisdom is really not zum Gebrauch for Jedermann [for use by everyman], and it is always most prudent to be silent about rules of prudence. Therefore, I want no followers, but if someone were standing beside my deathbed and ifI were sure it was all over for me, then in a fit of philanthropic delirium I might whisper my doctrine into his ear, not quite sure whether I would have done him a favor or not. II There is so much talk about man's being a social animal, 12 but basically he is a beast of prey, something that can be ascertained not only by looking at his teeth. Therefore, all this chatter about sociality and community is partly inherited hypocrisy and partly studied perfidy. All human beings, then, are boring. The very word indicates the possibility of a classification. The word "boring" can designate just as well a person who bores others as someone who bores himself. Those who bore others are the plebians, the crowd, the endless train of humanity in general; those who bore themselves are the chosen ones, the nobility. How remarkable it is that those who do not bore themselves generally bore others; those, however, who bore themselves entertain others. Generally, those who do not bore themselves are busy in the world in one way or another, but for that very reason they are, of all people, the most boring of all, the most unbearable. 13Certainly this class of animals is not the fruit of man's appetite and woman's desire. Like all lower classes of Rotation ojCrops 289 animals, it is distinguished by a high level of fecundity and propagates beyond belief. It is incomprehensible, too, that nature should need nine months to produce such creatures, which presumably could rather be produced by the score. The other class of human beings, the superior ones, are those who bore themselves. As noted above, they generally amuse others-at times in a certain external way the masses, in a deeper sense their co-initiates. The more thoroughly they bore themselves, the more potent the medium of diversion they offer others, also when the boredom reaches its maximum, since they either die of boredom (the passive category) or shoot themselves out of curiosity (the active category). Idleness, we are accustomed to say, is the root of all evil. To prevent this evil, work is recommended. But it is just as easy to see from the dreaded occasion as from the recommended remedy that this whole view is of very plebian extraction. Idleness as such is by no means a root of evil; on the contrary, it is a truly divine life, if one is not bored. To be sure, idleness may be the occasion oflosing one's property etc., but the noble nature does not fear such things but does indeed fear being bored. The Olympian gods were not bored; happy they lived in happy idleness. A female beauty who neither sews nor spins nor irons nor reads nor plays an instrument is happy in idleness, for she is not bored. Idleness, then, is so far from being the root of evil that it is rather the true good. Boredom is the root of evil; it is that which must be held off. Idleness is not the evil; indeed, it may be said that everyone who lacks a sense for it thereby shows that he has not raised himself to the human level. There is an indefatigable activity that shuts a person out of the world of spirit arrd places him in a class with the animals, which instinctively must always be in motion. There are people who have an extraordinary talent for transforming everything into a business operation, whose whole life is a business operation, who fall in love and are married, hear a joke, and admire a work of art with the same businesslike zeal with which they work at the office. The Latin proverb otium est pulvinar diaboli [idleness is the devil's pillow] is quite correct, but the devil does not find time to lay his head on this pillow if one I 261 290 I 262 Either/Or, I is not bored. But since people believe that it is man's destiny to work, the antithesis idleness/work is correct. I assume that it is man's destiny to amuse himself, and therefore my antithesis is no less correct. Boredom is the demonic pantheism. It becomes evil itself if one continues in it as such; as soon as it is annulled, however, it is the true pantheism. But it is annulled only by amusing oneself-ergo, one ought to amuse oneself. To say that it is annulled by working betrays a lack of clarity, for idleness can certainly be canceled by work, since this is its opposite, but boredom cannot, as is seen in the fact that the busiest workers of all, those whirring insects with their bustling buzzing, are the most boring of all, and if they are not bored, it is because they do not know what boredom is-but then the boredom is not annulled. Boredom is partly an immediate genius, partly an acquired immediacy. 140n the whole, the English nation is the model nation. The true genius of indolence is seldom encountered; it is not found in nature; it belongs to the world of spirit. At times one meets an English tourist who is an incarnation of this genius, a heavy, inert woodchuck whose total resource of language consists of a single monosyllable, an interjection 15 with which he indicates his highest admiration and his deepest indifference, for admiration and indifference have become undifferentiated in the unity of boredom. No nation other than the English produces such oddities of nature; every individual belonging to another nation will always be a bit more lively, not so altogether stillborn. The only analogy I know is the apostle of empty enthusiasm, who likewise travels through life on an interjection, people who make a profession of being enthusiastic everywhere, who are present everywhere and, no matter whether what happens is something significant or insignificant, shout: Oh! or Ah! because the difference between what is important and unimportant is undifferentiated in the emptiness of blind, clamorous enthusiasm. The boredom that comes later 16 is usually a fruit of a misguided diversion. It seems doubtful that a remedy against boredom can give rise to boredom, but it can give rise to bore- Rotation ojCrops 291 dom only insofar as it is used incorrectly. A mistaken, generally eccentric diversion has boredom within itself, and thus it works its way up and manifests itself as immediacy. Just as a distinction is made between blind staggers and mad staggers in horses, but both kinds are called staggers, so also a distinction can be made between two kinds of boredom that nevertheless are bothjoined in the category of boredom. Pantheism ordinarily implies the qualification of fullness; with boredom it is the reverse: it is built upon emptiness, but for this very reason it is a pantheistic qualification. 17Boredom rests upon the nothing that interlaces existence [Tilva'reisen]; its dizziness is infinite, like that which comes from looking down into a bottomless abyss. That the eccentric diversion is based upon boredom is seen also in the fact that the diversion sounds without resonance, simply because in nothing there is not even enough to make an echo possible. Now, if boredom, as discussed above, is the root of all evil, what then is more natural than to seek to conquer it? But here, as everywhere, it is primarily a matter of calm deliberation, lest, demonically possessed by boredom in an attempt to escape it, one works one's way into it. All who are bored cry out for change. In this, I totally agree with them, except that it is a question of acting according to principle. My deviation from popular opinion is adequately expressed by the phrase "rotation of crops." There might seem to be an ambiguity in this phrase, and if I were to find room in this phrase for a designation of the ordinary method I would have to say that rotation of crops consists in continually changing the soil. But the farmer does not use the expression in this way. For a moment, however, I will use it in this way to discuss the rotation of crops that depends upon the boundless infinity of change, its extensive dimension. This rotation of crops is the vulgar, inartistic rotation and is based on an illusion. 180ne is weary of living in the country and moves to the city; one is weary of one's native land and goes abroad; one is europamiide [weary of Europe] and goes to America etc.; one indulges in the fanatical hope of an endless journey from star to star. Or there is another direction, but still 1 263 292 Either/Or, I extensive. One is weary of eating on porcelain and eats on silver; wearying of that, one eats on gold; one burns down half ofRome 19 in order to visualize the Trojan conflagration. This method cancels itself and is the spurious infinity. 20 What, after all, did Nero achieve? No, then the emperor Antoninus was wiser; he says: o.vaOUtlVaL Oot '(OE JtUALV tex we; EWQae;· EV tOUt

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