To Be as No‐One: Kierkegaard and Climacus on the Art of Indirect Communication

Vanessa Rumble
Boston College
Abstract Kierkegaard and his pseudonym, Johannes Climacus, advance a ?theory? of indirect communication which designates it as the appropriate vehicle for ethico?religious discourse. This paper examines the justification for this claim, as it is elaborated in the Postscript, and traces the similarity between Climacus? account of indirect communication and his broader existential ethics. Both accounts locate the identity of the subject in the repeated renunciation of finitude. Just as the autonomy of the Kantian subject demands indifference to phenomenal incentives, so too the ?infinite possibility? of the Climacean subject is assured only through its repeated renunciation of finite determinants. The paper argues that this project of self?determination underlies both the theory of indirect communication and the Postscript's existential ethics, and both are critiqued by Kierkegaard under the rubric of ?Religiousness A?. The theory of indirect communication and the existential ethics of which it is a part demand that the individual's freedom be literally ?thought at every moment? ? a requirement which is as divorced from the circumstances of actual existence as Hegel's much maligned ?System?. The paper closes by considering the significance of Climacus? ?Absolute Paradox? for the subject's predicament and for Kierkegaard's authorship: does the notion of the Absolute Paradox represent an alternative to the subject's self?assertion, or is it merely its pre?eminent expression?
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DOI 10.1080/09672559508570816
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