Self is an important part of an individual according to Kierkegaard; self refers to the real and existing nature of the person. In this case, the real nature of self will be exposed using one's intuition; he goes a head and says that self becomes the source of a person's existence. For instance, an individual must first be aware and learn about himself before learning about everything else (Enns, p, 42). With this regard, Kierkegaard emphasizes that an individual must learn how to know the self before being able to know him. His assumption is that after acquiring knowledge about oneself, it is then that one will be free to know and understand other things. The essence of Kierkegaard's Philosophy is well illustrated and seen in his doctrine that there are three stages of life experience: aesthetical, ethical and religious. This paper is going to discuss these three stages of life, specifically explaining how the different forms of choice at each stage result in different forms of inwardness, and how this leads to different forms of selfhood at each stage (Knight, p, 12).
According to Kierkegaard, this is the first stage of life experience whereby a person can be a hedonist searching for pleasure, romance, or intellectual. It is also known as a sphere of existence where life is engaged in a sensual way, and it is solely lived for short-term pleasure. At this stage, Kierkegaard observed that it is typical for an individual to escape boredom and other life activities that are painful by only sampling and choosing that pleasurable and enjoyable. Kierkegaard established that people avoid commitment and responsibility but the immediate concern is to fulfill pleasures at hand. In essence, aesthetic stage is a stage of fulfilling desires, just living for the moment. In relation to this explanation, one is unable to fulfill his wants rather he loses himself to speculations, and at times, he is far from the real world.
Accordingly, Kierkegaard profoundly saw that man always seeks to run away from himself through diversions that may provide him a kind of momentary distraction. He also say that man is always engaged in a "rotation method" for example, if man is bored with life in the country, he will seek fulfillment in the village, he is bored in the village he moves to the city, when he gets tired with the city he will seek to enjoyment and pleasure a broad. When he gets bored in the foreign country, he decides on an endless journeying around the world to alleviate the boredom. Kierkegaard philosophy observed that a depressed individual will engage himself in a self-defeating hunt for a perfect diversion to try and fulfill his pleasures, unfortunately, these diversions always end up with frustration as each diversion is never satisfied. In fact, Kierkegaard says that aesthetic existence ends in futility.
There is no fulfillment aesthetics, neither in their continued hedonistic and sensual pursuit nor in the abstraction of their speculative thoughts. For this matter, we can say that the pleasure seeker is like a leaky sieve and he will never get enough. Something meaningful and fulfilling is that that its agent turns inward. However, aesthetic individual engage in inner battles to escape the reality. Kierkegaard saw that the result of aesthetic stage is despair that may eventually motivate an individual to a commitment of ethical values. Considerably, choosing despair will allow one to pass from aesthetical stage where he cannot make decision to an ethical stage that compels one to make decisive commitments. An aesthetic individual always consider that at any moment in time there is no need to think about the consequence of an action but rather to transform a boring situation into something interesting. Actually, at this stage there is no good or evil because an aesthetic individual is unable to be reflective or rational, and neither does he possess the ability to demonstrate any moral principles.
This is the stage of decisions and resolving to commitments rather than sticking on diversions in life. Kierkegaard established in his philosophy that an ethical person is a person who accepts limits, follows rules of conduct which aesthetic person is unable to follow. At the ethical stage, an individual is not moved pleasurable desires, succumbing to impulses when foods, drinks, or sexual attractions beckon. In addition, fulfillment at this stage is obtained through dedication to duty and obedience that are dictated by objective morality. In fact, at this stage there are various ethical codes to which and individual pledges allegiance to make surer that he acts within that code (Knight, p, 15).
When an individual makes right decisions and gets committed to these decisions, his self becomes anchored. In addition, an ethical person by virtue of having shouldered his responsibilities on decision, he has and inward fulfillment. Kierkegaard, found out that this experience lacks full personal meaning and at times it fails to validate one's individual existence. He finally added that commitment to ethical stage, which could only be fulfilled by an act of faith where one is aware of his guilt and sin. Accordingly, it is at this stage that by decision and commitment the self becomes aware of its integrity and unity (MCDowell and Stewart, p 65).
Kierkegaard considers religion to be the highest stage of human existence because it requires faith. At times, he observed that ethical and religious stages are connected; a person can be ethically serious without being religious, but a religious person cannot be without being ethical. In ethical stage, one lives in a sphere that involves commitment to ethical codes while living in a religious sphere involves commitment, obedience and strong relation to God. The religious stage is actually a culmination of the first two stages (Enns, p, 46).
Faith is the result of a religious person and is the opposite of despair that we encountered in the first stage. In essence, despair is the unwillingness to be oneself. Kierkegaard believed that faith and doubt existed side by side in an individual. For instance faith require doubt in order for it to have substance; to believe in God's existence without having doubt is faith worth not having.
At the religious stage, an individual will have a subjective experience of God an act that assures one that he is in a relationship with God. Transformation happens only when ones progresses to the religious stage. By acknowledging one's mortality, sinfulness, and inadequacy of objective ethics to give a sense for oneself and the emptiness that the first two angels lead to ((MCDowell and Stewart, p 69).
The religious stage moves an individual closer to being able to be committed to God and be completely satisfied. For instance, selfhood cannot be ultimately achieved within the self, and therefore the self must be committed to the one beyond, to God. The religious stage is more sacrificing as compared to the aesthetic and ethical stages (Evans, p, 12). The stage requires devotion and calling despite even if another may believe it to be an irrational calling. The stage also requires true religious choice, no automatic, rational decision-procedure can be employed, but a leap of faith is all that is needed to provide the ground for the decision (Geisler and Feinberg, p, 32).
According to Kierkegaard, an individual must first be aware and learn about himself before learning about everything else. With this regard, Kierkegaard emphasizes that an individual must learn how to know the self before being able to know himself. His assumption is that after acquiring knowledge about oneself, it is then that one will be free to know and understand other things. Kierkegaard's philosophy divides life into three stages. Aesthetic stage where he observed that it is typical for an individual to escape boredom and other life activities, which are painful by only sampling and choosing that pleasurable and enjoyable things.
Ethical stage where an individual starts making his/her own decisions and engaging to commitments, rather than sticking on diversions in his/her life (Geisler and Feinberg, p, 35). Kierkegaard established in his philosophy that an ethical person is a person who accepts limits, follows rules of conduct which aesthetic person is unable to follow. Lastly, Religious stage, this is where he considered religion to be the highest point of any person because it requires faith. Faith is the result of a religious person and is the opposite of despair that we encountered in the first stage. In essence, despair is the unwillingness to be oneself (Knight, pp, 23-36).