Kierkegaard’s main idea in “Either/Or” is that individuals must choose which mode of existence they will live. His definition is quite binary as noted in the title of his book.
You might live an aesthetic mode which is characterized by a focus on personal pleasure and enjoyment. This is an “A” type of life where you live for the moment and seek pleasure in all aspects of life. An “A” type person is not concerned with the future or consequences of their actions, but only with immediate gratification.
On the other hand, you might live an ethical mode which is characterized by a focus of responsibility and duty. This is an “E” type of life where you live a life guided by principles and morals. An “E” type person is concerned with the long-term consequences of their actions and takes responsibilities for their choices.
This is just one of the many powerful ways that we humans can analyze how to live our lives. You’ve probably heard of a number of other either/or concepts throughout your life as well.
The most famous is the concept of heaven and hell in Christianity. Individuals must choose between accepting Jesus and living a life of faith to go to heaven, or rejecting Jesus and facing eternal damnation in hell.
Buddhists reject this either/or idea entirely. Instead, they believe there is a Middle Way which emphasizes the importance of finding balance between two extremes such as “A” and “E” modes.
Hinuism is very aligned to “E” type lives. That you follow the concept of the dharma and it represents the moral duty one must follow to live a virtuous life. Failure to do so leads to a life of moral decay.
Throughout many mythological stories there are characters making either/or choices that have profound consequences. Consider the Greek myth of Pandora’s Box. Pandora is given the choice between opening a forbidden box or leaving it closed. Her choice to open the box leads to the release of all the world’s evils.
Finally, the Existentialist may argue the importance of individual choice and our inherent responsibility to make this either/or choice. Whether that is for “Man is condemned to be free” or the famous commentary on the Myth of Sisyphus, one might see that we are all constantly faced with the either/or choice of how to live our lives.
I’m on team existentialist. Similar to Kierkegaard who was famous for being the father of existentialism, he believed that it is possible for one to change one’s choice to live from one mode to another, but it requires a significant leap of faith.
That we should not make decisions based on our external factors like social norms or the expectations of others, but rather make choices based on our personal values and beliefs.
This emphasizes the importance of individual freedom and our ability to choose our own path in life. That we should be free to change our minds and choose a new path if we feel our current way of living is not fulfilling or meaningful.
There’s a willingness to take a risk and embrace the unknown. The classic stories of Hercules at the Crossroads or Achilles immortalizing his name by returning to Troy. To overcome the fear and uncertainty that comes with making a major life change. A man will always understand his sins as well as his limits in this limitless world.