Men With A Kierkegaardian Stance on Labels.

Revered as one of the “great” philosophers, Danish or otherwise, Søren Kierkegaard may not have been the best “man” for a woman to tie her wagon to when taking into account his Houdini-like stance on not being defined by any label. For, as he put it, “If you name me, you negate me. By giving me a name, a label, you negate all the other things I could possibly be.” However, like Andy Warhol’s constantly mangled “fifteen minutes of fame” quote, Kierkegaard’s, too, is often repurposed as, “Once you label me, you negate me.” In whichever fashion he chose to phrase it, it was fairly clear that he was developing an ironclad “philosophical” excuse for never being deemed anyone’s boyfriend or husband. And certainly not Regine Olsen’s. A girl he was in love with (or at least, in love with what the poetic idea of l’amour once meant). He spouted in his goddamn journal toward the end of their engagement, “O, can I really believe the poets when they say that the first time one sees the beloved object he thinks he has seen her long before, that love like all knowledge is recollection, that love in the single individual also has its prophecies, its types, its myths, its Old Testament. Everywhere, in the face of every girl, I see features of your beauty…”

But it is better to keep an idealized image of one’s “true love” vacuum sealed in the mind as opposed to actually taking her on as the ball and chain of wife. For that would utterly shatter the idealized image. And nobody wants that, in the end, so he comes up with: “If you name me, you negate me.” Well all right then, that’s Regine to the curb. Now how to handle the matter of being a “man” who never took a wife: why not become labeled as a rebel of the nineteenth century. Because one can’t really avoid labels and if he’s got to have one it might as well be rebel. As in: “Kierkegaard does not marry in defiance of the whole nineteenth century” (Martin Buber’s words, not anyone else’s). Yes, defiance, that’s what makes a real “man,” isn’t it? Then again, how can anything be real if it can’t be labeled? One isn’t “man” or woman (much to the delight of the proponents of the pronoun “they”). One is not in general.

This delicate dodging of classifications also helped Kierkegaard avoid the critique of being a petulant rich boy living on Daddy’s dime, profiting from it even more once his wealthy wool merchant father, Michael, kicked the bucket and he used the 31,000 rigsdaler inheritance to bankroll himself through the rest of his “studies.” A.k.a. writing in his little notebook and publishing whatever he wanted from it. That’s just the luxury of being rich (and even now, publishing is most certainly a rich man’s game when one wants the marketing blitzkrieg required to actually move units). But oh, no. Do not label him or any “man” as that. Not privileged, not fuck”boy,” not “boy”friend, not husband. Not anything, in short, that carries any weight of responsibility in its implications. Ah yes, that Kierkegaard. He really foreshadowed so much “male” behavior of the twenty-first century.

 

 

 

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