Aesthetical, Ethical, Religous Stages of Existence. Kierkegaard: Founder of Existentialism

Kierkegaard divided life into three separate stages;

The Aesthetical

This is a life of predominantly self-centred hedonism. The aesthete seeks pleasure from the world in its various forms. This needn’t necessarily be great food, great sex and great experiences. Also included is the pursuit of wealth, fame or egocentric status. This is the ‘sphere of immediacy’ and because our need for satisfaction is ultimately unquenchable, this leads to disillusionment, boredom and even misery.

The Ethical

The ethical person takes on a more altruistic, connected worldview. They champion duty and living ‘rightly’. For Kierkegaard it was something of a transitional phase, and therefore had its basis in identifying and ceasing to do ‘wrong’. Again, moral standards are theoretical and often unattainable. Imperfect humans, striving to live by a set of invented rules, fall short and fall into a depression.

The Religious

For Kierkegaard, this was the highest sphere of existence man could attain. It went against the Hegelian idea of the power of man’s rationality to understand everything in the universe. Faith, and presumably submission, in a higher power was meant to free the ‘knight of faith’; and provide an explanation for Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son at the Christian God’s request.

Kierkegaard was a fervent believer that dogmatic Christianity as preached and practiced by the established Church lacked the essential submission and spirituality that the original doctrine seemed to require.

Morality for him was subjective; what was wrong for some people in some situations could be acceptable for others in different scenarios


‘Concluding Unscientific Postscript’

Further Reading

Stanford’s Biography:

Dan Storm’s Site: