I'm new to philosophy and I've only read Plato and some essays by Schopenhauer so far, so please be patient with me.

I'm reading the first part of "Either/Or" - Diapsalmata - and have found the first part of it very poetical and melancholic.

Now I entered it's second part and stumbled upon this:

Marry, and you will regret it. Do not marry, and you will also regret it. Marry or do not marry, you will regret it either way.115 Whether you marry or you do not marry, you will regret [I 23] it either way. Laugh at the stupidities of the world, and you will regret it; weep over them, and you will also regret it. Laugh at the stupidities of the world or weep over them, you will regret it either way. Whether you laugh at the stupidities of the world or you weep over them, you will regret it either way. Trust a girl, and you will regret it. Do not trust her, and you will also regret it. Trust a girl or do not trust her, you will regret it either way. Whether you trust a girl or do not trust her, you will regret it either way. Hang yourself, and you will regret it. Do not hang yourself, and you will also regret it. Hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret it either way. Whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret it either way. This, gentlemen, is the quintessence of all the wisdom of life. It is not merely in isolated moments that I, as Spinoza says, view everything aeterno modo [in the mode of eternity],but I am continually aeterno modo. Many believe they, too, are this when after doing one thing or another they unite or mediate these opposites. But this is a misunderstanding, for the true eternity does not lie behind either/or but before it. Their eternity will therefore also be a painful temporal sequence, since they will have a double regret on which to live. My wisdom is easy to grasp, for I have only one maxim, and even that is not a point of departure for me. One must differentiate between the subsequent dialectic in either/or and the eternal one suggested here. So when I say that my maxim is not a point of departure for me, this does not have the opposite of being a point of departure but is merely the negative expression of my maxim, that by which it comprehends itself in contrast to being a point of departure or not being a point of departure. My maxim is not a point of departure for me, because if I made it a point of departure, I would regret it, and if I did not make it a point of departure, I would also regret it. If one or another of my esteemed listeners thinks there is anything to what I have said, he merely demonstrates that he has no head for philosophy. If he thinks there is any movement in what has been said, this demonstrates the same thing. But for those listeners who are able to follow me, although I do not move, I shall now elucidate the eternal truth by which this philosophy is self-contained and does not concede anything higher. That is, if I made my maxim a point of departure, then I would be unable to stop, for if I did not stop, [I 24] I would regret it, and if I did stop, I would also regret it, etc. But if I never start, then I can always stop, for my eternal starting is my eternal stopping. Experience shows that it is not at all difficult for philosophy to begin. Far from it. It begins, in fact, with nothing and therefore can always begin. But it is always difficult for philosophy and philosophers to stop. This difficulty, too, I have avoided, for if anyone thinks that I, in stopping now, actually stop, he demonstrates that he does not have speculative comprehension. The point is that I do not stop now, but I stopped when I began. My philosophy, therefore, has the advantageous characteristic of being brief and of being irrefutable, for if anyone disputes me, I daresay I have the right to declare him mad. The philosopher, then, is continually aeterno modo and does not have, as did the blessed Sintenis, only specific hours that are lived for eternity.

I have no problem at all with the part which is not in bold typeface, but from there on, I'm struggling to get his point.
It may be even inappropriate to say it here in this QA, but after reading and re-reading and then again I am still like "what the heck is this guy talking about?".

Plus, I would like to know what does this have to do with Hegel's philosophy, because in my book's footnotes it seems all of these ideas appear to have something to do to Hegel's philosophy, which one has told me before is contested by Kierkegaard, but here he doesn't seem like doing it.

  • Enten-eller means "Either/or"; and thus you are right at suggesting Hegel's dialectic: a process based on opposition with a conclusion that is not a contradiction. Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 9:24
  • Difficult passage... We can remember Kierkegaard's 1841 doctoral thesis: On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates. It seems to me that we can simply read it as an ironic reference to Hegel's dialectic. Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 15:28
  • 1
    – Gordon
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 0:45
  • Either/or is the principle of non-contradiction I believe. Hegel moves, that he does, he is always surmounting contradictions, sublating them, rising up to the next level. Kierkegaard doesn't move. (Actually he does, he sublated his lost love into literature, but never mind). Though I highly respect your philosophical instincts, maybe you should start with some secondary literature on Kierkegaard, an introduction if you can find one. Don't give up!
    – Gordon
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 0:53
  • 1
    The first link I posted up there is a "commentary" on Either/Or, but the writer seems to wonder around a bit before he gets down to business. Maybe it will be of some help.
    – Gordon
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 2:35

1 Answer 1


I was looking up this passage for the same reason and couldn't find a sufficient answer - that's how I ended up here. But I think I've deciphered it, or at least part of it, so I will try to explain it here, even though nobody will ever read it. I guess talking to myself helps me pretend I understand it better.

See? I'm picking up on the humor already.

Anyway, if you couldn't tell, this whole thing is a big joke. It's the point when Kierkegaard pulls out all the stops. The previous diapsalmata were buildup, and this is the punchline.

In the traditional logic at the time, you would start somewhere - at a point of departure, an axiom - and derive new statements from there. For example, "it will rain on Monday" (point of departure) + "it is Monday" (point of departure) -> "it is raining" (conclusion). And then you'd keep going from there, making new conclusions from previous statements.

'A' says "my maxim is not a point of departure for me". Note the "for me"! This part is crucial. He is not saying that "this maxim is not a point of departure", he is saying rather "this maxim is not MY point of departure", as in, "I am choosing not to go anywhere with this, even though I could."

And he gives a reason for doing this - it is so that he wouldn't have to decide whether or not his statement is a point of departure. What he's saying is, "I am intentionally avoiding making a committed decision on whether my maxim should be a point of departure, because I would regret it either way." It reads something like "I am lazy", or "fuck it", because, as we know, 'A' is stranded in the land of infinite possibility (aeterno modo) and does not like making committed decisions. He is being self-depricating. Because, as we know, by avoiding the decision, he is going to live with two regrets instead of one.

I'll talk about stopping and starting. Hegel says that it is very difficult to know where to start philosophy from, because how can you start with a true statement when you have nothing prior to work on? 'A' says that, in practice, it is very easy. "Behold! Here is my first maxim" - see? Easy! But it is very difficult to know where to stop, because 'A' is stranded in the infinite, and if he started writing, he would have to keep going and going and going and going and going and he would never be able to commit to a stopping point. And even if he did in writing, it would still continue in his head. Therefore, he intends to stop with his first maxim and not go anywhere with it.

There are two jokes here. The first is that, when we think of philosophy, we usually think of some big, abstract, infinite truth floating above our heads for us to discover. Yet here, 'A' is talking about philosophy in the most literal and concrete sense, as some degen with a wasted life sitting in an armchair trying to figure out when he should stop writing. The second joke is that 'A' explicitly says, "I am not going anywhere with this", and indeed he never says anything that really makes sense, yet it is apparent that, in just one paragraph, we have come a long way in our understanding of what philosophy is and what philosophers do.

There's a lot more detail you can analyze, but I'm going to take 'A''s advice and stop here, because otherwise the probability of someone reading this will move into the negative.

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