Sunday, July 15, 2007

Kierkegaard on femininity

From The Sickness unto Death:
However much more tender and sensitive woman may be than man, she has neither the egotistical concept of the self nor, in a decisive sense, intellectuality. But the feminine nature is devotedness, givingness, and it is unfeminine if it is not that. Strange to say, no one can be as coy (and this is a word coined especially for women), so almost cruelly hard to please as a woman--and yet by nature she is devotedness, and (this is precisely the wonder of it) all this actually expresses that her nature is devotedness. For precisely because she carries in her being this total feminine devotedness, nature has affectionately equipped her with an instinct so sensitive that by comparison the most superior masculine reflection is nothing. ...blindfolded, she instinctively sees what she should admire, that to which she should give herself.
So, women lack a concept of the self, and are devoid of intellectual reflection, but are instead endowed with a blind instinct for devotion. It's always such a joy when philosophers talk about women.

But there's more:
In the relationship to God, where the distinction of man-woman vanishes, it holds for men as well as for women that devotion is the self and that in the giving of oneself the self is gained. This holds equally for man and woman, although it is probaby true that in most cases the woman actually relates to God only through the man.
This is a little crazy. Kierkegaard had a individualistic conception of religion which pretty much entirely ruled out the very idea of anyone relating to God "only through" some other person: the relationship with God is a direct relation between God and the single individual, and no other person can have anything to do with it.

But he needed to find some way for women to be weak even in relating to God. So he fudged a little.

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