Self-Love and Neighbor-Love in Kierkegaard's Ethics

Kierkegaard Studies Yearbook 2013 (1):197–216 (2013)
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Kierkegaard faces an apparent dilemma. On the one hand, he concurs with the biblical injunction: we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. He takes this to imply that self-love and neighbor-love should be roughly symmetrical, similar in kind as well as degree. On the other hand, he recommends relating to others and to ourselves in disparate ways. We should be lenient, charitable, and forgiving when interacting with neighbors; the opposite when dealing with ourselves. The goal of my paper is to solve this puzzle. I first consider addressing it by appealing to Gene Outka’s idea that equal love does not entail identical treatment. After rejecting this solution, I offer my own: Asymmetry between the two loves is not a moral ideal for Kierkegaard but a rehabilitative strategy. He recommends being more latitudinarian with others than with ourselves to correct against a common tendency toward the opposite extreme.
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