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Kierkegaard, Repetition and Ethical Constancy

Abstract

How can a person forge a stable ethical identity over time? On one view, ethical constancy means reapplying the same moral rules. On a rival view, it means continually adapting to one's ethical context in a way that allows one to be recognized as the same practical agent. Focusing on his thinking about repetition, I show how Kierkegaard offers a critical perspective on both these views. From this perspective, neither view can do justice to our vulnerability to certain kinds of crisis, in which our ethical self‐understanding is radically undermined. I further examine his alternative account of ethical constancy, by clarifying Kierkegaard's idea of a ‘second ethics’, as addressed to those who feel ethically powerless and as requiring an ongoing process of self‐transformation.

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