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#1 | Back to Top12-08-2009 01:49:07 AM

High Tripper
Registered: 10-10-2009
Posts: 246

Kierkegaard and Anthy

WARNING: Extreme over-simplifications ahead.

In his book Fear and Trembling, Soren Kierkegaard described the three stages of existence: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious, listed in ascending order of greatness.

The aesthetes (referred to as slaves) do not let themselves be affected by circumstance; if, for example, they fall in love but can't be united with their love object, they simply say "Oh, well, someone else will come along for both of us, and her fiancee is a perfectly respectable man." The aesthetic slave also lives their life according to intellectual and sensuous enjoyment with no thought for the deeper things. The aesthetic lifestyle is, in short, an unreflective one.

On the ethical level, the "knight of infinite resignation" forms a commitment to him/herself and to others, takes responsibility and direction for his/her life, and scrutinizes their actions in terms of "absolute responsibility." This is a life governed by reason, where reason directs the passions and takes them seriously. If the knight of resignation couldn't be united with his/her love, they'd say "Well, I still love her, but we are not meant to be together. I shall resign myself to this situation, and love her in secret." The ethical life, in other words, involves a commitment to some absolute principle.

On the religious level, the "knight of faith" has all the attributes of the ethical, plus a commitment and relationship to God. Since Kierkegaard was a Christian (albeit a very strange one) he said that the religious sphere involved realizing the paradox that God would descend to earth to redeem human beings. Only when this is understood can someone ascend to the religious level of existence. The knight of faith can also believe in something they know is impossible, can give themselves up to the absurd; if a knight of faith can't be with his/her love, s/he says, "Well, I know it is impossible, but still I believe we'll be united, if not in this life, then another one, for in God all things are possible."

I'd like to start a thread about interpreting SKU through a Kierkegaard-ian lens. However, my brain fails me at this hour, I can do no more than offer a summary, at least right now. Would anyone like to comment? Do any of the characters (or plot points) fit into these types? Do any of them not?

(on a completely off-topic note, Kierkegaard was not a bad looking man.)



#2 | Back to Top12-08-2009 02:15:22 PM

Eternal Castellan
Registered: 11-21-2009
Posts: 269

Re: Kierkegaard and Anthy

Weird my library spells his name Søren Kierkegaard but I'll give the book a shot and post back... maybe emot-smile . Philosophy is interesting and the book is only about 300 pages. It seem like it could fit but all I really know about Christianity is that it offers redemption.



#3 | Back to Top05-28-2017 08:45:02 PM

New Student
Registered: 05-26-2017
Posts: 1

Re: Kierkegaard and Anthy

Hi, replying to this thread approximately 7.5 years later but I hope someone might find worth in my thoughts on this emot-tongue


I just finished watching SKU for the first time, and was immediately struck by how much the finale reminded me of Fear and Trembling.  I think there is definitely potential to interpret Anthy as a Knight of Faith, but I consider Utena to be a better candidate as a Knight of Faith.

On the one hand, Anthy locked away Dios in an act which constituted rejecting the pursuit of the ethical/societal good - and facing the wrath of society as a result - in favor of pursuing what Anthy had determined an even higher good. This certainly mirrors the Abraham/Isaac narrative, where he intends to sacrifice his son and thereby go against the ethical for the purpose of fulfilling an a priori good (in Abraham's case, the will of God). In fact, perhaps one could argue that Anthy had to lock Dios away for the greater good of redistributing power in society and not having people rely so much on a prince to save them - a greater good, but one that goes against her current societal norms. She sacrificed duty and happiness in this act - perhaps she is a knight of faith?

What I struggle with in this interpretation is how much Anthy seems to have given up in the present.  The knight of faith is always able to maintain faith and joy and belief that good will come to pass, even when faced with seemingly impossible circumstances. I'd say this doesn't describe the Anthy of SKU - by the time she meets Utena, she seems to be in thorough disbelief that she will ever be able to escape her fate - leading up to, but especially in the moments of her attempted suicide and her stabbing of Utena.  This is not the unwavering, unshakeable happiness and faith of a Kierkegaardian Knight of Faith.

Utena, on the other hand...Utena Tenjou is an individual who constantly strives to embody the ethical qualities of a prince.  On paper, she seems to do an excellent job at first - wearing princely clothing, participating in sports and in duels, protecting women from abusive men, etc.  And why is this her ultimate goal? Because she hopes to be reunited with the prince/love of her life, or because she has witnessed something eternal and is determined to put an end to Anthy's suffering. I would argue that Utena spends most of the series as a Knight of Infinite Resignation in this pursuit, with the goal of princely behavior as the ethical code she has resigned herself to.

In my reading of SKU, Utena's attempt to save Anthy from her coffin is her Knight of Faith moment. Just five minutes prior, Anthy has stabbed her twice, first literally, and second in telling Utena that she will never be an adequate prince because she is a girl - the ultimate stab to Utena's sense of self and identity, as she has just been robbed of her ethic system that allowed her to be a Knight of Infinite Resignation. In this moment, Anthy essentially plays the parallel to God in the Abraham/Isaac story: Utena has already sacrificed her desire (Akio) in the pursuit of duty (being a prince by protecting Anthy), and now Anthy has forced Utena to lose even her ethical princehood.  Utena following that action up by saving Anthy, who has demonstrated herself as someone that doesn't believe she can be saved, is absurd, it's impossible, and it is the move of a Knight of Faith.  Even when faced with the possibility that she can have neither her happiness nor the resignation/peace that comes with sacrificing one's individual happiness in pursuit of the ethical, she STILL believes in Anthy! HOW??? Truly, this action to me is the ultimate absurd, the ultimate act of a Knight of Faith.  Perhaps, in Utena's case, the a priori to her ethical system as a prince is the eternal thing that inspired this ethical system in the first place - this is the faith that pushes her to action in spite of loss of everything. And she truly does lose the ethical, in the sense that Akio strips the school of her memory - Kierkegaard points out that this is a key difference between Knights of Infinite Resignation and Knights of Faith, since a Knight of Faith will perform an action of faith that defies the ethic/societal code even though they will become pariahs, whereas the Knight of Infinite Resignation - the tragic hero - cannot deny that there is a sense of peace and relief that comes from their celebration in society.

Sorry for the word vomit...I literally just reread Fear and Trembling after watching SKU because I was so moved by the absurdity of the finale, and the degree to which I attempt to wrap my mind around it reminded me of Kierkegaard's growing and growing mystification regarding the Abraham story emot-tongue Please let me know if you have any thoughts on my musings!



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