Deleuze on Kierkegaard
In this chapter, I discuss three ways in which Kierkegaard would be considered an aesthetic philosopher on Gilles Deleuze’s account, arguing that thinking about Kierkegaard as aesthetic makes sense given a certain undecidability of the categories of religious and aesthetic experience. First, I explain Deleuze’s scepticism about Kierkegaard’s religious vocabulary by showing how, for Deleuze, the concept of repetition—which Kierkegaard defines as a properly religious category—might better be understood as a profoundly natural and aesthetic category. Then I show why Deleuze understands Kierkegaard’s style of authorship as profoundly artistic, emphasizing the sensible character of his writing and the need for aesthetic interpretation that it invokes over its theoretical content. Finally, I interpret Kierkegaard’s ideal of religious behaviour in terms of its performative elements, comparing it to Deleuze’s understanding of the Stoic sage who, like an actor, performs the events of his life that he cannot control. And I show, reciprocally, how Deleuze uses Kierkegaard’s notion of faith in order to understand the process of artistic creation, which involves a kind of belief in the possibility of unknown futures. From this I claim that Kierkegaard’s work as a self-avowedly religious author coincides with a sophisticated aestheticism, once we move beyond the more narrowly defined concept of aesthetics that Kierkegaard himself offers.