The Seduction of an Aesthete

Is there anything more thrilling than seduction? Honestly? It saturates our senses and courses through every possible path in out brains and pushes us to the brink of obsession. Seduction is the erotics of chess. Underrated and almost forgotten in today’s society of ostentatious exhibitionism and ubiquitous media outlets, seduction is a relationship of two, a consensual journey through temptation and restraint, intrigue and despair. It is slow, deliberate arousal of the senses and a the gradual invasion of one’s heart and mind. And if you want to truly master and engage in seduction, Søren Aabye Kierkegaard’s The Seducer’s Diary is a must-read.

The Seducer’s Diary was originally part of a longer philosohical work Either/Or that explores the conflict between the aesthetic and the ethical. In The Seducer’s Diary, Kiergegaard (noted as the father of existentialism) portrays Johannes and his infatuation and seduction of the young Cordelia. The ultimate demonstration of the ‘thrill of the hunt’ Johannes carefully depicts the psychology of Cordelia so he can eventually tempt her in all ways. Johannes holds the idea of seduction as sacred, a religious practice because it involves knowing how to please Cordelia while not necessarily pleasing his own immediate needs:

That I am really in love I can tell among other things by the secrecy, almost even to myself, with which I treat this matter. All love is secretive, even faithless when it has the necessary aesthetic element. I t has never occurred to me to want confidants or boast of my affairs. So it was almost as gratifying not to get to know her address but a place that she frequents. Besides, perhaps because of this I have come even nearer to my goal. I can begin my investigations without attracting her attention, and from this fixed point it shouldn’t be difficult to gain access to her family. Should that prove difficult, however, eh bien; it’s all in the day’s work; everything I do I do con amore; and thus also I love con amore.

Although there are some dated ideas that made me cringe a bit while reading, modern day woman’s knee jerk reaction to 19Th century ideology and ‘a woman’s place’, this is a true homage to seduction that has become an inspiration to many writers and philosophers that came after Kierkgegaard. But Kierkegaard himself was influenced by Ovid, who figures prominently in this work:

I am now in lawful possession of Cordelia, I have the aunt’s consent and blessing, the congratulations of friends and relations. That should do it. Now all the hardships of war are over, the blessings of peace begin. What tomfoolery! As if the aunt’s blessing and the friends’ congratulations in any real sense put me in possession of Cordelia; as if love made such a contrast between wartime and peace, and did not, as long as it last, proclaim itself rather in conflict, however different the weapons. The difference is really whether it is fought cominus or eminus. The more the conflict in a love affair has been eminus, the more it is to be deplored, for in that case the less significant the hand-to-hand combat. To the latter belong the handclasp and the touching of the foot, both of which, as we know, were warmly recommended by Ovid as most jealousy disparaged, to say nothing of a kiss, an embrace.

This guy was intense! Intellectualizing seduction to this level is dizzying, but highly provocative. We question so little out own behavior in today’s culture. I wonder what kind of insight we could gain of ourselves if perhaps we took the time to analyze more our behavior-action and reaction. No one is ever going to have love ‘figured out’, but methods of seduction are sensual indeed and are not to be forgotten. This is not about using and abusing, it is about capture and enrapture, and in my humble aesthetic opinion, lost to the ages. Kierkegaard can’t explain love, but he comes close to explaining the allure of seduction :

There is a difference between a spiritual and physical eroticism. Up to now it is mostly the spiritual kind I have tried to develop in Cordelia. My physical presence must now be something different, not just the accompanying mood, it must be tempting. I have been constantly preparing myself these days by reading the celebrated passage in Phaedrus on love. It electrifies my whole being and is an excellent prelude. After all, Plato really understood love.


The Seducer’s Diary
By Søren Kierkegaard
Translated by Alastair Hannay
Penguin Classics
ISBN: 9780141034843
144 Pages

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