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KSRK: Quidam’s Progress

The quidam of the experiment is something of a self-tormentor. His first movement is good and correct, but he remains absorbed in the outcome, he does not get back quickly enough to joy in order to repeat this movement again. However that moment in which I have depicted him is also his crisis, it may perhaps go easier with him in case he is sensible enough to regard a whole life as appropriately spent in such a course of instruction, is ready to put up with being a dawdler among those who are quickly “finished” …. — That the girl assists him to get out upon the deep there can be no doubt, and viewed from my standpoint his whole relationship to her is a fortunate relationship. For the man is always fortunate in love who gets a girl who is precisely calculated to develop him. Thus Socrates was happily married to Xantippe. In the whole of Greece he would not have found her match; for that ancient grand-master of irony had need of such as she in order to develop himself …. So likewise is this girl perfectly suited to him, as was required in the experiment. She is lovable enough to move him, but weak enough to abuse her power over him. The first of these qualities binds him, the last helps him to get out upon the deep, but also saves him. If the girl had been more characterized by spirit and less by feminine loveliness, if she had been very magnanimous, she would have said to him as he sat pursing his deceit, “My dear, thy cunning distresses me. I do not understand thee, and I do not know whether thou art frivolous enough to want to desert me, or whether thou art hiding something from me and art perhaps better than it seems. But be this as it may, I perceive that thou must have thy freedom; I am fearful on my own account if I were not to give it to thee, and I love thee too dearly to refuse it to thee. So take it, without any reproaches, without anger between us, without thanks on thy part, but with the consciousness on my part that I have don the best I could.” If this had come to pass, he would have been crushed, he would have sunk to the ground in shame, for with his passion he can endure all evil treatment when he knows that he is the better one, but he would not have been able to forget that he was a debtor to such magnanimity, the greatness of which he would discover with demoniac keenness of sight. This would have been an injustice to him, for from his standpoint he too had meant well. In the experiment he is not humbled by a human hand but by God.

S. Kierkegaard, Stages on Life’s Way, Lowrie translation, p. 426-7.

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