Kierkegaard on romantic love (and valentine’s day, and self-renouncing love)

Oh, Valentine’s day, a time for romantic love and the celebration of lust. Like any other “holiday”, I think to myself, “what would Kierkegaard have to say about this day?” I think he would say, “Hey romantic love is great and all, but you really need to try out self-renouncing love, it’s really cool!” Alright, Soren, but what’s all this about “self-renouncing”?

The distinction between ‘yours’ and ‘mine’ disappears in self-renouncing love. In this act the individual gives up all that is his, such that he has nothing that he can say is “mine”. But because ‘yours’ and ‘mine’ exist in duality or polarity, the self-sacrificing one who gives up what is ‘mine’ sees that you give up what is ‘yours’. Because there is no “mine” there is no “yours”, such that everything becomes that of the self-renouncing one of true love. “All things are mine – I, who have no mine at all (Works of Love)” Thus, because ‘yours’ only exists in opposition with ‘mine’, if there is no ‘mine’ then there is no ‘yours’, and everything becomes ‘mine’.

Pretty kinky, Kierkegaard.

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  1. #1 by bloggingisaresponsibility on February 14, 2014 - 8:17 am

    You are the only person I know whose first inclination on any holiday is to ask what Kierkegaard would say!

    I wonder if renouncing “vanishes” if fully embraced? That is, if someone feels like they are renouncing (ie: giving something up) then they are still holding on to the concept of “me”, so that absolute renouncement in theory shouldn’t even feel like renouncement.

    Put another way, if I think I am renouncing, then by definition I am not.

    • #2 by ausomeawestin on February 15, 2014 - 12:33 pm

      There is actually an anonymous society of people who think about Kierkegaard at strange times; our numbers are growing!

      But yes, the idea of self-renouncing love seems paradoxical. Alas, that is something Kierkegaard fully intended, much of his work focused on the truth in contradiction.

      • #3 by bloggingisaresponsibility on February 17, 2014 - 7:54 am


        I can see people managing to renounce, but it happens with no self-consciousness. Every time I forget my self, become fully absorbed, or experience genuine interest or joy in someone else’s condition (a condition that cannot possibly affect me) then I have renounced. Ironically, when I realize that I did this or feel good about having done it, I just un-renounced 🙂

      • #4 by ausomeawestin on February 17, 2014 - 12:53 pm

        I see, so the originating point for self-renunciation is different for you and Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard thinks that to renounce one’s interests one must renounce oneself, whereas you are saying that to renounce oneself one must affirm the interests of the other. I see your reasoning for thinking this; it seems self-renunciation should be passive rather than active. I’m not convinced of either way. It does seem to me that for self-renunciation to be meaningful it has to be active and drastic in the way Kierkegaard posits, but I am open to revision.

        It should be noted, just as a historical matter, that Kierkegaard was responding to Hegel, who posited movements of consciousness similar to yours. Hegel thought that there was an original unity of subject and other, and that as consciousness develops it sees the other as other than consciousness, essentially negating it as self. But it comes to see that the other must be affirmed, through a double negation, such that it returns to the original unity. Kierkegaard resisted this idea, and argued that the process moves in the other direction, in order to cast doubt on Hegel’s idealism. Kierkegaard is an incredible writer in that way, he was always writing about at least two things at once.

      • #5 by bloggingisaresponsibility on February 18, 2014 - 8:54 am

        Depending on how you define renouncing, both approaches accomplish the same thing. If I’m actively renouncing myself, well I just did. If I’m fully engaged in the other, then I unself-consciously renounced myself. The key here is how one regards renouncing. Is it completely forgetting about the self, or simply letting go of one’s attachments?

        Thanks for the info on Hegel. I read a bit about him here and there (including a disastrous attempt at reading his original writing), and was never quite sure if he was writing in a metaphorical or literal sense.

      • #6 by ausomeawestin on February 18, 2014 - 9:39 pm

        You pose an interesting question in asking is ‘renouncing oneself’ forgetting about the self, or letting go of attachments. I imagine the former is closer to what we are concerned about with renouncing.

        Yeah Hegel is some of the worst philosophy I have read in terms of substance and form — completely unintelligible.

  2. #7 by teamgloria on February 15, 2014 - 12:31 am

    you had us at kierkegaard.

    • #8 by ausomeawestin on February 15, 2014 - 12:34 pm

      Glad to hear it! You had me at ‘team’.

  3. #9 by on May 12, 2014 - 8:12 pm

    There’s definately a lot to find out about this topic.
    I like all the points you made.

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