Kierkegaard's mirrors: The immediacy of moral vision

Inquiry 50 (1):70 – 94 (2007)
This paper explores Kierkegaard's recurrent use of mirrors as a metaphor for various aspects of moral imagination and vision. While a writer centrally concerned with issues of self-examination, selfhood and passionate subjectivity might well be expected to be attracted to such metaphors, there are deeper reasons why Kierkegaard is drawn to this analogy. The specifically visual aspects of the mirror metaphor reveal certain crucial features of Kierkegaard's model of moral cognition. In particular, the felicity of the metaphors of the "mirror of possibility" in Sickness Unto Death and the "mirror of the Word" in For Self-Examination depend upon a normative phenomenology of moral vision, one in which the success of moral agency depends upon an immediate, non-reflective self-referentiality built into vision itself. To "see oneself in the mirror" rather than simply seeing the mirror itself is to see the moral content of the world as immediately "about" oneself in a sense that goes beyond the conceptual content of what is perceived. These metaphors gesture towards a model of perfected moral agency where vision becomes co-extensive with volition. I conclude by suggesting directions in which explication of this model may contribute to discussions in contemporary moral psychology.
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DOI 10.1080/00201740601154832
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Patrick Stokes (2008). Locke, Kierkegaard and the Phenomenology of Personal Identity. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 16 (5):645 – 672.
Eleanor Helms (2013). The Objectivity of Faith. Res Philosophica 90 (4):439-460.
Daniel Watts (2013). Kierkegaard and the Search for Self‐Knowledge. European Journal of Philosophy 21 (4):525-549.

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