Kierkegaard’s theory consists of three stages of life featuring a pursuit to one’s true-self, namely: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious.
The best friend of mine, aged 25, is on Kierkegaard’s aesthetic stage as he is entirely focused on hedonic needs and strives for earthly pleasures. This way, John combats boredom. While anticipating something pleasant to happen, however, he often downsizes the extent of pleasure as such. Furthermore, John’s sole concentration on his personal needs and enjoyment makes him rather ego-centric and deprived of a broader perspective and more consistent choices in life. Once John is capable of thinking of someone else or help others, he will pass to the Kierkegaard’s ethical stage.
My neighbor, Mrs. Brown, aged 44, leads ethical life according to Kierkegaard’s theory and seems to enjoy life. Purely ethical, she is an opposite of John’s aesthetic desires. Mrs. Brown leads two charities and well manages to subordinate her aesthetic desires to the ethical life. Caring about the good of society, she often sacrifices her time for volunteering. Still, it seems she is quite contented in her life while harmoniously co-existing with diverse people. By promoting social welfare, she surely gains and benefits from what life offers her in return.
The highest on life’s way is Kierkegaard’s religious stage. We have ever been on friendly terms with Uncle Paul, aged 64, leading somewhat authentically religious life. Deep inner philosophy and peace of mind make him different from many people who only pretend, though are falsely religious. Uncle Paul maintains personal relationship with God, though never shows it. It seems that he is in permanent personal spiritual quest in which he tries to understand God and his own mission as a Christian.
According to Kierkegaard, the aesthetic life emphasizes passion; ethical life focuses on societal regulations, while the religious life is about one’s faith in God. Just like my best friend John, I have not so far transformed from the aesthetic stage to the ethical one, let alone the religious stage in Kierkegaard’s hierarchy. In this comparative analysis, I have come to a conclusion that evident transition is possible with one’s maturity and gaining more life experience. With age, I think, I will become more socially oriented and find my personal bond with God. For the time being, however, I enjoy only some elements of ethical and religious life.