The Concept of Movement in Kierkegaard's Repetition (Conference Talk, September 2014)

Here is the talk delivered at the 2nd International Conference on Soren Kierkegaard How to Avoid the Totalitarianism of ConsumerismLjubljana and Skocjan, Republic of Slovenia. September 23-26, 2014. 

Kierkegaard Year 2014. International Workshop and 2nd International Conference. Central European Research Institute Søren Kierkegaard, Ljubljana. Director: Dr. Primoz Repar

For the Conference Program and the Conference Address, please visit the following link.


Jasna Koteska
The Concept of Movement in Kierkegaard’s Repetition


Introduction: Three Impossible Choices
I. Movement
1. Kierkegaard: Ontology of Movement
2. Freud: Psychology of Movement
3. Marx: Economy of Movement
4. Kierkegaard: Culture of Movement (Travel, Legs…)
5. Kierkegaard: Publicity, Media and Movement
II. Farce
            1. Dual Nature of the Social Order
            2. To Walk versus To Come Walking (Beckmann versus Chaplin)
            3. Farce and the Consumer Art (Warhol’s Case)
III. Repetition
            1. Gjentagelse and Comsumerism
            2. Fort-Da
            3. Unheimlich
            4. Job (Old Testament)

Three Impossible Choices

The following article analyzes the Kierkegaard’s concept of movement, central to both the construction of subjectivity and to the ideology of choice, in Kierkegaard’s book Repetition (1843). Before delving into the analysis of Repetition, we offer the following two points about Kierkegaard’s general theory of choice.

According to Kierkegaard, humans are torn between two incongruent and often contradictory paradigms: the aesthetical and the ethical one (two ideological commands: pleasure or duty). The two paradigm cannot coexist one next to another, both according to the social standards, but also because of the general incongruity of pleasure and duty, two things which contradict each other completely (“If I elect pleasure, I will immediately negate duty, and vice versa”). Not only are the contradictory commands imposed upon people by the ideological demands of the society, but people have to make their choices based on what Kierkegaard called “the leap of faith”, i.e. without a clear knowledge of the consequences of the choices made. Yet, choices are not impossible, and for Kierkegaard, most of what is out there are only some practical decisions about what kind of life one wants to commit oneself to.[1]
Impossible Movements. Kierkegaard
Ljubljana, September 26, 2014
From my talk at Cankarjev Dom,
Ljubljana, September, 26, 2014

Either/Or introduced the third, religious paradigm. Both choices: the aesthetical (“the life of a poet”) and the ethical (“the life of a judge”), according to Kierkegaard are incomplete, the only resolution of human’s destiny must come about in the form of a religious choice. But, due to the radical antagonism of human situation, the third choice (“the life of a priest”, or broadly: “the life of a believer”), also possesses an imbedded paradox within itself. The paradox consists of the fact that humans are incapable of bypassing the abyss between the finite and the infinite, and the modern life in the mid-19 century only fosters this impossibility. Kierkegaard left a testimony that a strange shift happened to the concept of a belief. A human is already someone who is no longer capable to simply and directly “believe”. If he/she believes it is only with the help of rituals, always with doubt (that is with cynicism, as, for example, in the dilemma: “But, what if Abraham’s choice to kill Issac was not a religious call, but just his own private madness”?[2]), and it is no longer is a belief in God, but only a belief in believing.

The analysis which follows offers the reading of these dilemmas in Kierkegaard’s book Repetition (1843). Although a small fraction in the big body of his thought, Repetition is a magnificent door into Kierkegaard’s theory of choice, as in its core, it is essentially a book about the problem of choice. The book was published in 1843, Kierkegaard’s most prolific year, when he also published Either/Or and Philosophical Crumbs. In his journals, Kierkegaard didn’t have a high opinion about Repetition, as he considered it: “Insignificant, without any philosophical pretension, a droll little book, dashed off as an oddity”.[3] Our analysis will try to offer that it the book, on the opposite, is a kind of Kierkegaard’s manifesto of choice; a complicated inquiry into three concepts which gravitate around the problem of choice, and those are movement, repetition, and farce.

As is the case with most of Kierkegaard’s books, Repetition is a highly heterogeneous book: it opens as a philosophical tractate about the differences between repetition and recollection, it continues as a theatrical review of a farce, and it ends as an epistolary exchange of letters between the narrator and the young unnamed man. The unnamed man is unhappily in love; the narrator decides to mentor his love affair, although not in the most empathic way. The narrator offers to help his epistolary friend, but more as a psychological experiment, therefore the subtitle of the book: An Essay in Experimental Psychology. The advice the narrator gives, can be summed up as follows: 1) love is an impossible goal, 3) the young man needs to destroy his connections to the loved girl, 3) he needs to search for a new love and 4) only by means of repetition he can regain his happiness again.

The book was published by pseudonym Constantine Constantius. Kierkegaard’s use of pseudonyms was less intended to provide anonymity for the author (most of the people in Copenhagen knew who wrote them),[4] but to serve his main thesis: Constantine Constantius translates as Constant Constant, a name which suggests both the affirmation of repetition, but at the same time the affirmation of the constancy of repetition. The central questions for Kierkegaard in Repetition are: Does movement exist at all? If it does exist, is it possible to achieve constancy by stand stilling the motion? Is it possible to freeze the world flux? Can the change (and by extend, the choice) be understood as a movement of constancy? Can life be seen as a movement around one constant center, around which, every new circulates, only in so far as to affirm the impossibility of the new arriving? Can the repetition be seen as a “the kind of change” in the direction of the constancy?[5] Or, vice versa, is constancy impossible? Is repetition impossible? Are humans doomed to seek the new, always the new? And if later is the case, is the ideological landscape constructed in such a way that the tyranny of choice, the tyranny of consumerism, and the circulation of goods, are deeply imbedded in the tissue of the external reality? In the following pages we will seek answers to these questions through several notions which Kierkegaard developed on the pages of Repetition, regarding the choice and consumerism: movement, repetition and farce.


Skopje, Ljubljana, Skocjan: September 2014

Kierkegaard 2014 Ljubljana Conference
Cankarjev Dom 26 September, 2014
Movement and the Circularity. Kierkegaard Conference
Ljubljana, September 26, 2014



[1] A perfect illustration of the problems with the choice, one finds in Kierkegaard’s most famous book Either/Or (1843), which as is well known, investigates the two paradigms from the perspective of marriage (especially in its small novelette The Seducer’s Diary). The book has two perspectives: either talks about life from an aesthetic point of view, and or talks about the life from the ethical point of view. The main argument of the second volume of Either/Or can be summed up to these few lines: A and B know each other, A is an aesthete, he is unhappy, and he is 7 years younger than B. B is married and at first he writes to A to tell him that he considers that marriage possesses an aesthetic value (and pleasure). A is not convinced. B then writes again and this time he includes the ethical dimension (and duty), too. A does not respond again. B finally sends his third letter, in which he retells a narrative told by a priest that humans are always wrong in relation to God, which basically means that the project is finalized with the short religious tractate. A continues to be silent.
[2] Žižek, Slavoj. “Only a Suffering God Can Save Us”, (Lacanian Ink, No. 26, 2007),, Accessed September 6, 2014.
[3] Kierkegaard, Søren: Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs, a new translation by M.G. Piety (Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford University Press, 2009), x.
[4] Mooney, F. Edward, “Introduction” in Kierkegaard, Søren: Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs, a new translation by M.G. Piety (Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford University Press, 2009), xi.
[5] Kierkegaard, Søren: Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs, 177.


For more information on the 2nd International Kierkegaard Conference, please also visit the following websites:

1. How to Avoid the Totalitarianism of Consumerism: here (in English).
2. V Iskanju Drugega v Skocjan. (Dr. Primoz Repar, AUDIO) here. (in Slovenian)
3. Central European Research Institute of Soren Kierkegaard (CERI - in Slovakian and English): here.
4. Filozofija na pohodu v Skocjanu, Sezani in Stanjelu, here (in Slovenian)
5. V Skocjanu se bodo zbrali filozofi... Ugledna mednarodna imena na idilicnem Krasu. Delo, Ljubljana, October 2, 2014. here (in Slovenian) 
6. Pdf plakat: here.
7. Mednarodni festival "Revija v reviji" 2014 here. (in Slovenian)
8. Kako se izgoniti totalitarizmu potrosnistva, Bojan Zalec and Primoz Repar (AUDIO, 54 min.), RTV4 Slovenia: here (in Slovenian)
9. The Hong Kierkegaard Library Minnesota FB page, here (in English).


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