Volume 69, Issue 3, March 2016
Kierkegaard’s Don Giovanni and the Seductions of the Inner Ear
The author means to show how focusing on the sense of hearing can sharpen our understanding of Kierkegaard’s argument – in the first portion of Either/Or – that Don Giovanni ranks supreme among works of art. After explaining how he takes Kierkegaard’s case to rest on the issue of the ear being the “most spiritually qualified sense,” he shows how attending to the importance of hearing within the original Don Juan myth, as well as within Mozart and Da Ponte’s treatment of it, can help us understand the myth’s dependence on and repudiation of Christianity: unlike sight, hearing places us in close spiritual intimacy with its source, even as it also opens up specific possibilities of theatricality and deceit. He concludes by arguing why hearing should be regarded as the paradigmatic sense in relation to which Kierkegaard understands the task of philosophy itself, in contrast to earlier philosophical emphases on visible intelligibility.