Kierkegaard on self -deception
This purpose of this dissertation is to demonstrate that behind the apparent disunity of Søren Kierkegaard's authorship there lies a single mindedness of aim and purpose. I show this by examining Kierkegaard's understanding of what is involved in self-deception.
I begin by pairing Either/Or and The Sickness Unto Death in order to analyze the connection between the forms of despair found in Sickness with the personality types found in Either/Or. The net result of this analysis is a sketch of Kierkegaard's conception of self-deception, broadly construed.
Second, I pair the essay “Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing” with Works of Love in order to provide a concrete example of self-deception, namely, how the apparently other-regarding elements in preferential love ultimately amount to a form of disguised self-love. One surprising result of this analysis is that for Kierkegaard there is no essential difference between pursing characteristically pagan vices (wealth, fame, power, etc.) and erotic love and friendship.
Third, I survey Kierkegaard's entire authorship and enumerate all of the various strategies of self-deception that Kierkegaard discusses. These strategies include distracting oneself through immersion in practical activity as well as various tactics of the imagination. What becomes increasing clear in this chapter is that Kierkegaard is primarily concerned about the self-deception involved in ethical failure, and that his account of self-deception is squarely voluntaristic (as opposed to intellectualist).
Finally, I closely read “Despair viewed under the aspect of consciousness” and “The Continuation of Sin”—both from Sickness —in order to bring to bear all that we have learned about Kierkegaard's understanding of self-deception up to that point. What becomes apparent in this chapter is that Kierkegaard understands the ethical failure involved in self-deception to be one of attempting to construct a self under one's own power, independent of God. Ultimately the picture that emerges helps to link several key Kierkegaardian concepts. In particular, despair, sin, double-mindedness and conscience all emerge as highlighting different aspects of the process of self-deception.