At a time when fake news is ruling the roost, a renewed interest in Søren Kierkegaard might help us to critically understand as well conscientiously respond to it. Although, communication scholars have not invested much into Kierkegaard’s model of communication in the past, today several scholars seems to have come to a heightened awareness that his thought can open us new ways of analysing communication in an era of post-truth. Kierkegaard wrote with several pseudonyms and communicated without authority. In the wake of fake news in a post-truth era, we can trace not just writing without authority but also writing without responsibility. The disguise of pseudonyms provided a guise through which Kierkegaard presented aesthetic, ethical and religious categories. Unfortunately, the disguises provided by the social media platforms seem to only make room for the aesthetical and provide little or no space for the ethical and the religious. Hence, in a country like India where the aesthetical masks as the ethical under the garb of cultural nationalism of the right wing, the communication model of Kierkegaard is profoundly relevant. Today we not only face challenges to the ethics of authorship but we also have challenges to empower the reader or the receiver of communication as it has led to gruesome mob lynching on several occasions. Hence, writing without authority and responsibility challenges us to build a culture of critical reception among our people. In an environment of fading ethics of authorship, we have an imperative to develop an ethics of reception/ reader. We urgently need a new way of reading and responding to the text that is produced and circulated in the post-truth era. This new way of receiving, reading, and responding to the text that is communicated both without authorial authority and responsibility opens an ethical relation to the reader or receiver. Therefore, as Roland Barthes succinctly puts that ‘a text’s unity lies not in its origin (Author) but in its destination (Reader)’. We draw our attention to the reader/ receiver of the text and hope that his/her response would be guided by an ethics of reception. In this project, Kierkegaard who practiced the vanishing of the author to perfection in his writings becomes a great inspiration for us to imagine a reader’s response to a text in the absence of the author. We do need to pay heed to the ethics of authorship that chooses to communicate without authority and responsibility (as in the case of fake news). The absent author opens the communicated text for an ethical reading with profound responsibility. The disappearing author calls the reader / receiver to an ethics of reception. Today more than ever before, we need an ethics of reception. The reader is challenged to take responsibility of being the author of his/her own readings of the text which is often orphaned by the author in a post-truth scenario. Unfortunately, the absence of the author is also accepted by the reader without much complains. Perhaps, the amount and speed at which we receive communication/information has something to do about the reader forgetting the author. Given this precarious condition, an ethics of responsible reception might be a vital response to communication in our times.
The question why readers get seduced and not alienated by the text dished to us through social media is indeed revealing the power that these texts weld over people. These texts do not remain silent but speak to us without the authority of the author. These texts seem to defy what Jesus said ‘let those who have ears hear’ as they speak indiscriminately to everyone luring the receivers into dangerous zones that might only halt with violence and murder. The producers of these authorless texts employ varieties of strategies in order to entice the readers into their narratives. These strategies are manipulative and unethical. While the texts that are circulating enact their own death of the author, it is important to understand how uncritical readers get sucked into their scheme of circulation of the message as the text goes viral. The author is certainly dead and is insignificant. But in the absence of the author, the significant other who passes/ circulates the text lends legitimacy and authority to the text. This means who has passed on the message produces acceptance of the message. Maybe this might also explains why in a post-truth scenario news agencies and media houses have become propaganda tools of the ruling classes across the globe. The media houses in our country are no exceptions. They are also bought and co-opted by the ruling alliance. This and other reasons make it imperative for us to work to empower the reader to acquire critical competence to receive these manipulated texts and develop responses that would emancipate our captive society. This quest for the ethics for a reader is an unavoidable ultimatum that we face as a society today. The post-truth condition that faces us becomes an opportunity for us to rise to a higher level of morality. Kierkegaard says that he employed seductive style of writing ‘to deceive into truth’. He proposes maieutic and ethical aim of his own deceptive writings. This reminds us of the method of Socrates which led people to think straight while they were made to think in circles. This means that deceptive texts that are circulated in our media today carry the conditions and possibilities for the reader to make a path that will enable him/her to rise to the truth. It has the best possibilities for the birth of a critical reader who has the gumption to view deception and manipulation straight into its eyes. We are not trapped into a dark corner. We have a way of becoming enlighten readers and have possibilities of letting our society embrace the emancipative truth. There is curative power embedded within the post-truth condition. It is for us to reject the fallacies of uncritical reading and embrace critical and emancipative reading strategies that will read with ethical responsibility all texts that attempt to speak to us without authority and responsibility.
Kierkegaard’s Model of Communication
Kierkegaard speaks in whispers with a soft voice that dissolves into silence. This opens the door for the reader to become the author of his/ her readings. He does not follow direct model of communications that gives direction to the readers. He champions the indirect model of communication that leaves the reader to trace his/her direction.
Language and communication
Kierkegaard teaches that language exists to conceal thought. It reshapes the privacy of the inner into the external sphere of social construction of meaning. This means language becomes a medium of transformation of inner meanings into public domain of signification. One cannot express purely inward intentions without directly saying something other than what one meant to say. This means author does not have any privileged excess to the meaning of his/her work. This is why Kierkegaard cuts off all his relationship with his texts insisting that he has no opinion about those texts except as a third person. He further declares that he has no knowledge of their meaning except as a reader.  He agrees that language is fundamentally limited and cannot fully contain thought-content and hence, he uses it to give hints about them. Thus, limitations of language require indirect communications. He holds that there is nothing that we can say in a semantically straight forward way. This does not mean that there is something inherently unspeakable about the world. There is semantic content which makes it possible for Kierkegaard’s Pseudonyms to present different descriptions and evaluations of the world and provokes their reader’s response. Hence, indirect communication is necessitated not by semantic problems but by pragmatic issues which result from what may be viewed as objective uncertainty. Taking Austin’s terminology as our guide, we might say that indirect communication implies certain speech acts or prelocutionary acts intending to provoke and produce prelocutionary effects, namely, the effect of the listener making a decision
Structure of Indirect communication
Kierkegaard teaches that direct communication has four elements. The object, the speaker, the listener and the message makes his four elements of direct communication. He says that everyone has axiological system to subscribe and hence direct communication that seeks to communicate knowledge of abstracted axiology fails and there is no need of object, speaker, listener and the message. Direct communication promotes quietism and abandons all discerned acting. Therefore, he teaches that in the context of indirect communication of the ethical matters, the objects is cancelled off as everyone knows what is right and what is wrong (subjective axiology) and there is nothing left to teach. This means we do not cancel the object because there is no object. It is cancelled simply because everyone knows about it in as much as everyone knows the ethical way of life. Given this it is pointless to spell it out. Hence, Kierkegaard moves from the semantic level to the pragmatic level of speech and takes up the pragmatic task of motivating the listener to do what he or she knows to be his or her duty. It is about communication of ability and not knowledge. This takes us to what is being called as double reflection. When the thought gets its right expression in words it becomes the first reflection. The second reflection consists of the interest of the communicator which he attaches to what is being said (subjective axiology). The communicator applies what is understood and accepted with profound interest to his life and strives to bring others to the same point knowing well that one person cannot force another to decide. Here we might remind ourselves of the distinctions between the aesthethic, ethical and the religious that is made by Kierkegaard. If one emphasizes equally the communicator and the receiver communication it is the communication of the aesthetic ability. If one emphasizes only the receiver, it is the communication of ethical ability and if one emphasizes mainly the communicator, it is the communication of religious ability.
Indirect communication and Truth
Indirect communication does not force a choice but evokes it. It bases itself on the belief that each human being has a subjective axiology. For this reason, Kierkegaard finds it pointless to communicate an objective set of values to his readers and concentrates on evoking the realization of the subjective values held by his readers through his indirect communication. As an author, he refrains from imposing a concrete axiology but aims at bring a subjective transformation in his readers. Hence, he does not communicate any absolute truth which could be accepted by all. He tries to avoid all forms of petrifactions of truth which are promoted through direct communication. He believed such petrified absolute truths prevent self-reflection among the individuals and brings about the formation of mass society. This means, he believed that truth is not something that is given once for all but remains in a dynamic process of becoming. Due to this belief in continuous striving towards the truth, he preferred to write with pseudonyms. It kept him free from absolutizing his outlook. He firmly believed that no human has an authority as absolute in life. As such no outlook can be judged as true or false. He thinks that indirect communication is directed towards the awakening of individuals to the subjective axiology. He presents it as a way of living authentic life and reminds us what it is to be a human being.
Communication and the Ethics of Authorship
Kierkegaard views the ethics of authorship as revolving around the form of communication between the author and his/her reader and offers his indirect communication as a form suitable for ethics. This requires a closer scrutiny as indirect communication employs concealment, disguise and even deception.
Abdicating the position of a Teacher
The ethics of authorial indirection has been a fundamental concern of Kierkegaard. He thinks that the ethics of communication obligates him to remove himself from the position of a teacher. He is convinced that what he has to say cannot be taught directly. It can be only caught indirectly by his receivers. He employs ambiguity, duplicity and deception to evoke and awaken his readers to the subjective ethics of their own. He assures us that his ethically guided project was not a mystification for its own sake but was laid out in the service of a serious purpose. He wished to provoke the reader into a self-authorship of his/ her own reading. His aim is to engineer a redublication that would free the reader from his/her reliance on the author and find himself/ herself alone to an authoring of his/her own reading from the text . In Training Christianity, Anti-Climacus explains “to redublicate is to ‘exist’ in what one understands.” He follows the maieutic method of Socrates and practices his indirect communication. In some sense he chooses to remain silent for he is convinced that existential reality cannot be communicated. He wishes to enable the reader to see that his words are to be revoked and take up the all important task of authoring his/her reading. Thus, the vanishing of the author is directed to the abandonment of the reader so that the reader is awakened to live his/her own ethical life.
The Ethical in Kierkegaard
We can trace a life long struggle with the ethical in Kierkegaard. He views the ethical in close relationship of the self with its other. Throughout his life, he was haunted by the impossibility of self reaching its other. To him every other remains an absolute other that escapes us in his/her irreducible alterity. We cannot comprehend but only apprehend the reality of the other by thinking it. Thus, the ethics of indirection has its origin in a troubling thought of the impossibility of a direct encounter with the other. It is this realization that urges him to seek a circuitous path to the other which becomes to him a desperate move of self withdrawal. His strategy is to provoke the reader but abandon him/her in an act of disappearance so that the reader retains his/her autonomy and fends for him or herself. His ethics of authorship in several ways redeems the author and not just the reader. The author (Kierkegaard) behind the author (pseudonym) sacrifices himself and retains his interior inwardness by remaining hidden and the author’s authors (pseudonyms) in turn sacrifice themselves by taking on the character of abstractions through speaking so that the reader is summoned to his/her own concretion (self) by sacrificing the reliance on the author as the pseudonyms manifest themselves as unreliable guides and disappear from sight as trustworthy authorities. Thus, Kierkegaard’s ethics of authorship aims to free both the author and reader to actualize their profound subjective interiority.
The Merciful Ethics of Deception
Indirect communication is a merciful ethics. Kierkegaard views it as a gift of mercy to the reader and thinks that direct communication puts the reader at the mercy of the author. The merciless text of direct communication sacrifices reader’s autonomy to the mega-phonic voice of the author. The disappearing author in Kierkegaard leaves a performative text that provokes the reader into a self awakening. It opens an immanent rhythm of the text and lets the reader be touched by the enactment of the text. This means the disappearing author sets the text free to do rather than passively proclaim. The reader has no directives from the author but has to face the text that enters his/her interiority in its light. With the death of paternalising author, ethics of authorship of Kierkegaard puts the burden on the reader to find his or her way. All deception is aimed at letting the reader rise up from the state of passive assimilation of the meaning of the texts and lead him/her to self-reliance. His reliance on several pseudonyms assisted him to de-install himself as authority and open the world of the poetised “I’s” to the readers. Thus, indirect communication uses deception to achieve a sort of silence, in order to free the reader from the imposition of author’s authority. Seduction in Kierkegaard portrays the conflict between the aesthetical and the ethical and choice of living ethically is left to the reader.
Dying Ethics of Authorship
In Kierkegaard indirect communication was put at the service of the ethics of authorship. The author wrote without authority but with care and responsibility to allow the reader to awaken to his/her subjective ethical life. It followed the Socratic dictum ‘know thyself’ and opened possibilities for the reader to be himself/herself. Unfortunately, today we are facing a dying ethics of authorship in an era of Post-truth. Social media platforms have made is possible to write without authority as well as responsibility.
The Aesthetic Enslavement of the Ethical
Perhaps we are slipping down a steep slope of ethical decadence on the wings of aesthetics. Today we need an ethical redemption of the aesthetical more than ever before. Aesthetic way of life dominates us and is built on the sensuous. The sensuous is momentary and often illusory. It invites us to enjoy the momentary bliss. Falling for the transitory bliss, we have tuned into a mass society. Our enslavements to our aesthetics convert us into a mob. The rise of the internet, smart phone and social media platforms provide us space to escape from ourselves. Everyone among us is enslaved to the smart phone. Our children remain captive to games and young escape into the music, sports, films and even porn sites while the adults stay glued to fake news and other past times available on the smart phone. Everyone is trapped into a grand lila / play of an internet enabled world. The technological possibilities offered by the internet enabled world have transformed our way of being-in-the-world. Everyone seems to stay drown into their aesthetic tastes. The internet and the smart phone and the possibilities that they offer not only enact the death of the author but also the death of all authorial authority as well as responsibility. They also produce unreflecting self. Being enslaved by aesthetic orientations our individual selves (both as authors and readers) are primarily controlled from outside and therefore we easily fall prey to the fake world that is digitally generated while the ethical dies in us even before become aware of it. We obey a herd mentality and are easily huddled into a crowd unable to live an examined life that is lived from inward subjectivity. To recover the lost ground, we have to enable our individual selves to stay in control of our life and enter the ethical realm. This may enable us to take the next leap of being directed by our profound inwardness before God.
Living an Unexamined Life
The death of authorial authority and responsibility exhibits a full blossoming of unexamined life. Unexamined life usually lacks reflection and promotes lazy reason and we seek immediacy of sensuous fulfilment. Unexamined life nurtures the aesthete in us and remains in a chase of instantaneous gratification of transitory whims and fancies excited in us from external stimuli. We tend to live immediately and not reflectively. The death of ethics of authorship has brought about the death of a critical reader in our mass society. Here we have to note that Kierkegaard offers two poles of the aesthetic realm. At the first pole, humans seek pure sensuous gratification. One can find Don Giovanni as a model of mediate sensuous gratification. The second pole of the aesthetic realm opens doors for reflection and seduction. Kierkegaard presents Don Juan as a model of this aesthetic sphere. The above two sides of aesthetics realm stand in opposition to each other. But both lead to unexamined life. In the first case, it is unreflective and devoid of reflection but in the second case, it becomes a case of over-reflection or thinking too much. In doing so a cognitively developed aesthete loses his /her relationship with the immediate and the actual. The seducer-aesthete forgoes acting in the here and now. The condition that is facing humanity today appears to be mainly at the second pole of aesthetics. The content dished out to us through inter-net enabled tools of communications exhibits seductive moorings. The seducers are the authors or the producers of the content while receivers or readers circum to it mindlessly losing sight of the challenge of the actual here and now. This is how fake news thrives and succeeds in deflecting our mind from real issues that confront us.
The Tyranny of Public
Both the authors and their readers are trapped into aesthete’s way of life caught mainly at the second pole of aesthetic realm. It has weakened ethical way of being in the world. The dying authority of the author as well as the abandoning of all responsibility to the reader has brought about a condition that objectifies both the authors and the readers. It has produced mass society. Our mass culture has actualised Kierkegaard’s phantom public. The phantom public levels everything down. He points out that the villain behind this levelling down is the Press. He saw press as a unique cultural and religious threat to humanity. Press poses as being outside the political power and can remain without responsibility for our people. It had steadily produced what is called the tyranny of public opinion by the time Kierkegaard was living. He says the public kills all commitment and no one finds reason to live or die. Such an age was characterized by Nietzsche as Nihilistic. The massive distribution of desituated information produced a desituated spectator. It produced simultaneity and led persons to forget their local or personal issues and migrate into national or global concerns. We seem to be facing this condition today. All of us have given up commitment and we seem to be busy passing on what best qualifies as idle talk. We are all trapped in a chain of endless ‘passing on’ of desituated information without ethical responsibility of its consequence.
Urgency of Ethics of Reception
The post-truth condition that afflicts us has put us into what Kierkegaard called crop rotation mode. The social media has made us a forwarding machine. Without verifying the truth of the messages, most people forward them to all and sundry. This has not only brought about writing without authority and ethical responsibility. It has produced a circulation and dissemination of information without ethical responsibility. This is why we urgently need an ethics of reception that will critically receive information and disseminate it with ethical care.
Distantciaton and Mediated Reflection
Post-truth condition has possibilities of developing an ethics of reception. This would require us to give up the aesthetic approach to life and embrace ethical way of life. Kierkegaard teaches that aesthetic approach to life has at its centre hedonistic pursuits of sensual pleasure. He also includes the refined seeking of pleasure of an intellectual aesthete into it. Besides this, he includes the sadistic abuse of power, an attitude that he characterises in a section of his book, Either/Or called ‘The Seducer’s Diary’. Such seeking after pleasures results into restless seeking of new pleasures otherwise a person given to pleasures is haunted by boredom. In palace of life driven by an aesthetical approach, Kierkegaard offers an ethical way of life. The ethical way of life lets the individual choose his or her response not from outside but from within. This requires what Paul Ricoeur calls distanciation. Distanciation draws us into a profound reflection. The ethical way of life advocated by Kierkegaard is clearly Socratic. It depends of the dictum: Knowledge is virtue. This means it basis itself on the principle which teaches that our will tilts to what the intellect views as ethical. Unfortunately, our precarious condition in a post-truth era, exhibits that we do not only have masked authors (death of authorial authority and responsibility) but we also have a death of responsible circulation and dissemination of information. Basing ourselves on Kierkegaard, we can diagnose how we are trapped in an aesthetic approach to life and have the challenge to rise up to an ethical level of life that is based on reflection/ distantciation. It is this critical reflection that will enable us to respond responsibly to all information that we receive. Hence, we have the challenge to opt for a mediated approach to life that will enable us to leap above the aesthetic pulls that seem to control our life today.
Hermeneutics of Suspicion
The ethical way to life enables us to critically approach the given-ness of life. Every human is characterised by what the existentialists call facticity. The ethical appropriation of this given-ness/ facticity is a fruit of hermeneutics of suspicion. Ricoeur developed it by studying, Marx, Freud and Nietzsche whom he called the masters of suspicion. It is a form of balanced scepticism. Suspicion is iconoclastic and is debilitating. But when brought in contact with the hermeneutical dimension, it brings about a balance between distance and closeness. Suspicion always marks a distance. Hermeneutics brings closeness. Hermeneutic presumes an insider’s view and can be viewed along side of Kierkegaard’s ethical approach to life. The bringing together of refection that marks the distance as well as closeness opens us to a critical reception of the given-ness of life. This opening of critical reception in the reader and the distributer of information is deeply vital in a Post-truth era. It promotes a self-questioning reception rather than the blind acceptance driven by the pushes and pulls of our aesthetic orientations. Hermeneutics of suspicion enables the receiver to remain critical and ethical towards given-ness that we experience in the post-truth scenario. It has the power to introduce a critical discernment that would enable us to receive and distribute information that floods our society with care and responsibility to self and its other. This means that the reader/ receiver becomes responsible author of his/her readings/ interpretations and exercises it with care for the other.
Responsibility to the Self and its Other
The post-truth condition has an ethical imperative to responsibility for the self and its other. It continuously obligates us towards responsibility to the self as wells as its other. Kierkegaard’s emphasis on singularity of subjectivity is not an egology or a totality in Levinasian sense. He does make room for a tension of the subjectivity beyond itself toward infinity. It opens humans to a higher realm that he calls the religious stage. Here one can trace not just human relation to God but also find the inevitable singularity of the individual human being. Because of this unique singularity of individual human, one cannot be reduced to the other. God’s imperative to responsibility cannot be transferred to anyone. Thus, we can notice that Kierkegaard like Levinas also resists the absorption of other in the same and stands for a dynamic singularity that is called to be responsible before God. Besides this commonality, we may trace a lot of difference between Levinas and Kierkegaard. Both of them are important to develop an ethics of reception that emphasizes the responsibility of the individual self to itself and to its other. Thus, taking up the responsibility to become the author of one’s reading is simultaneously an ethical attitude to oneself and the other that would also include the ultimate Other, who is God. Thus, a critical reception of information and its circulation in the media particularly in the social media becomes an ethical response that is urgent and relevant to the Post-truth condition that faces us.
Kierkegaard is uniquely placed as a seminal thicker to enable us to understand the post-truth condition. He enables us to seek ethical ways to respond to it. We have tried to open to us ways to find our ethical response to these challenges that face us today. Like Kierkegaard, this work also leaves it to the reader to respond to its call for an ethical reception.
 Charles E. Moore, Ed., Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard (Farmington: Plough Publishing House, 2007), XI.
 Roland Barthes, ‘The Death of the Author’, in The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, Second Edn. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010), 1322-1326.
 /www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/soren-kierkegaard-deceiving-into-truth/ accessed o n 19th September 2018.
 Søren Kierkegaards Samlede Værker (Søren Kierkegaard’s Collected Works), 1st ed., 14 vols., eds. A. B. Drachmann, J. L. Heiberg and H. O. Lange (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1901-06), 350-357.
 Daniel Bethhold , Ethics of Authorship: Communication, Seduction and Death in Hegel and Kierkegaard ( New York: Fordham University Press, 2011), 18.
 Ibid, 19.
 Charles Morris, Writings on the General Theory of Signs (The Hague/Paris,
 Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to ‘Philosophical Fragments’ vol. I, (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), 203.
 John Langshaw Austin, How to Do Things with Words (Oxford/New York, 1982,
7th edition), 94-108.
 Poul Lubcke, ‘Kierkegaard and Indirect communication’ , History of European Ideas, Vol . 12, No. 1 , Great Britian, ,1990, ( 31-40), 33.
 http://lingua.amu.edu.pl/Lingua_14/DOMARADZKI_14.pdf accessed on 19 September 2018.
 Ibid, 35.
 http://lingua.amu.edu.pl/Lingua_14/DOMARADZKI_14.pdf accessed on 19 September 2018.
 Daniel Bethhold , Ethics of Authorship, 26.
 Ibid, 66-67.
 Ibid, 67.
 Ibid , 29.
 Ibid, 31.
 Ibid, 75.
 The aesthetical, the ethical and the religious forms of life as taught by Kierkegaard can assist us to assess our ethical down fall. https://philosophynow.org/issues/24/Soren_Kierkegaard accessed on 19 September 2018.
 This Socratic dictum is relevant more than ever before. We cannot continue to live our life by the rules of others. https://schoolworkhelper.net/quote-analysis-the-unexamined-life-is-not-worth-living/ accessed on 19 September 2018.
 Kierkegaard uses Don Giovanni symbolically to signify how we live in the aesthetical sphere. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3331788?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents accessed 19 September 2018.
 Don Juan becomes a example of live a life from second immediacy https://academic.oup.com/jaar/article-abstract/XLVII/4/627/744084?redirectedFrom=PDF accessed 19 September 2018.
 See Walter Lippmann, the Phantom Public (London : Transaction Publishers, 1997).
 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/heyj.12220 accessed on 19 September 2018.
 Nigel Warburton, Philosophy: The Classics ( London: Routledge, 2000), 193-200.
 Nigel Warburton, Philosophy, 177.
 Nigel Warburton, Philosophy, p. 176-177.
 Nigel Warburton, Philosophy, p. 178.
 Francis J. Mootz III and George H. Taylor , Eds., Gadamer and Ricouer : Critical Horizons for Contemporary Hermeneutics (London: Continuum, 2011) 43-59.
 Alison Scott-Baumann, Ricouer and Hermeneutics of Suspicion (Lo2ndon: continuum, 2009).
 Emanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity : An Essay on Interiority ( London: Martinus Nijoff Publishers, 1978 ).