After Victor Eremita’s “Warning” and after Diapsàlmata, in the First Part of Enten Eller, Kierkegaard examines what he himself defines as “The immediate erotic stages” and, ultimately, “Erotic Musical”.
The task of his research, says Kierkegaard, is “to show the meaning of the erotic-musical and to indicate the various stages which, being immediately erotic, are also all essentially musical.”.
The interpretative key of this statement lies in associating the adjective “immediate” with the adjective “musical”.
From the outset, Kierkegaard invites the conception of this “new” language: the musical language.
According to Kierkegaard, each type of idea, in order to be best expressed, requires the medium that best suits it.
By medium, we mean the instrument through which the idea is expressed. The mediums are different, among these we can mention: oral and written language, painting, sculpture, dance, music. What is important to note is the relationship between medium and idea.
The more an idea is abstract, the less is the possibility of its repetition by the medium that expresses it; the more concrete an idea is, the greater is the possibility of its repetition by the medium.
For this reason, music is the most suitable medium for expressing an abstract idea because it is evanescent and instantaneous like the idea and at the same time unrepeatable. This is because music is (exists) the moment it is played, listened to and at the same time associated with the idea.
In the same way, the abstract idea is (exists) at the very moment in which it is realized in our mind and lies here, until it is evoked by an equally abstract medium such as music. And so, once again, music and idea would coincide in the instant in which the idea would be set to music and therefore represented as an unrepeatable instant, since one instant is never the same as another.
The concrete idea, on the other hand, finds in language the medium that best knows how to express it. An idea expressed through language can be repeated, while an idea expressed by music cannot be, as this is an instant during which, idea and expression of the idea itself coincide.
The question of the ineffability of matter and of the idea is already posed in the Proem of Dante Alighieri’s Paradise where, in the relationship between memory and expressive capacity, the limits of language are highlighted in expressing what is so abstract that it cannot not even be retained by memory. Images of light and impalpable acts such as dance and song, full of rituals and devoid of matter, become ineffable precisely because they are abstract.
However, Kierkegaard does not want to lead to the conception of an abstract idea, therefore ineffable, but to the conception according to which an abstract idea is instantaneous and therefore its medium is necessarily music.
The key to the discussion lies in the IDEA-INSTANT-MUSIC association.
Now, the idea that must be expressed and that will be meaningful in the analysis of the Three Immediate Erotic Stages is that of sensuality.
According to Kierkegaard, the abstract idea par excellence is sensual genius, it naturally follows that the medium most capable of expressing this idea is music.
SENSUALITY as an idea, over the centuries, has undergone its own evolution according to the judgment attributed to it by society.
In paganism sensuality existed as psychically determined and was not dominated because it was not seen as something sinful and rebellious.
Sensuality (the way it is thought of by most people today) has been placed in Christianity under the determination of the spirit.
That is: sensuality is posited by the spirit at the moment in which it denies it.
The spirit denies sensuality in the sense that it opposes it as REFLECTION and not immediacy and therefore as duration and not instantaneous.
The spirit does not become a negative principle by denying sensuality; but positive because it places sensuality in the world.
This sensuality denied and placed by the spirit is what Kierkegaard calls EROTIC SENSUAL GENIUS which, to be expressed in its immediacy, must be expressed through music.
The two figures placed by Christianity (one the triumph of sensuality and of the flesh; the other the triumph of reflection and of the spirit) in two words sensuality and spirituality, are respectively represented by Don Giovanni (especially that of Mozart) and from Goethe’s Faust.
Don Giovanni is the one who enjoys the love of every woman who, through who knows what demonic force, inevitably gives herself to him. He is not looking for the EXTRAORDINARY woman, but for the ORDINARY woman, the woman who possesses what all other women do not have: femininity. Faust, on the other hand, is looking for the extraordinary, for the extraordinary woman: Gretchen.
Later he desires Elena (nothing less than the most beautiful woman in the world) but Elena, a pagan and unabashed spiritual beauty, is not Faust’s true object, an object which, in the end, remains uniquely Grethcen, full of that spirituality and religious fervor that characterizes it. Thus the spirit wins: Mephistopheles is defeated, the flesh is trampled on and desire is imprisoned.
In “Don Giovanni”, on the other hand, the demonic is unleashed in a crazy dance together with Don Giovanni whose very unconscious power of seduction is demonic.
The winner comes out the meat that would be pulverized only when we had to call our libertine to trial, with the power of reflection.
Recalling the task that Kierkegaard set himself for himself, I am now going to indicate the various immediate erotic (and therefore musical) stages through which desire completes its evolution until it rises to desiring desire, to sensuality, or rather to that quality of who awakens, in the individuals around him, certain impulses and desires.
There are three stages that describe the phenomenology of desire.