Philosophy And Pseudonymy.

By Robert Hanna

“Diogenes Sheltering in His Barrel,” by John William Waterhouse



#8: A philosophy of the future is already here and now.

#7: You are identical to your life, for better or worse.

#6: Was Socrates an anarchist?

#5: Conceptual analysis from a non-conceptualist point of view.

#4: Further implications of non-conceptualism: sometimes, hell is other species.

#3: Implications of non-conceptualism: the existential counterpunch.

#2: The incoherence of public philosophy, and what can be done about it.

#1: What is “the debate about non-conceptual content,” and why does it matter so damned much?




#19: The incoherence and impossibility of personal immortality.

#18: A new argument against capital punishment.

#17: Fear, denial, and loathing in the philosophy of mind.

#16: The political aesthetics of outer space.

#15: The paradox of distributive social justice, and what is to be done?

#14: How a priori knowledge is really possible.

#13: Is a priori knowledge really possible? Yes; here’s proof.

#12: Is human free agency really possible? Yes; here’s how.

#11: What is democracy?

#10: Fear, loathing, and Pascal in Las Vegas: radical agnosticism.

#9: The philosophy of policing, crime, and punishment.

#8: The philosophy of borders, immigration, and refugees.

#7: The philosophy of old age.

#6: Faces, masks, personal identity, and Teshigahara.

#5: Processualism, organicism, and the two waves of the organicist revolution.

#4: Realistic idealism: ten theses about mind-dependence.

#3: Kant, universities, The Deep(er) State, and philosophy.

#2: When Merleau-Ponty Met The Whiteheadian Kripke Monster.

#1: Introductory; The rise and fall of Analytic philosophy; Cosmopolitanism and the real philosophy of the future; How to socialize the philosophy of mind.


By pseudonymy, I mean the practice of using pseudonyms.

In creating this neologism, I faced a choice between either lining it up with ‘synonymy’ (hence ‘pseudonymy’) or lining it up with with ‘anonymity’ (hence ‘pseudonymity’), but plumped for* the former because

(i) I like plumping for things, and

(ii) ‘pseudonymy’ has fewer syllables and quasi-rhymes with ‘philosophy’.

(* “To plump for X” is a British colloquial expression that means, roughly, “to choose X spontaneously, after some consideration.”)

Correspondingly, by philosophical pseudonymy, I mean the specifically philosophical practice of using pseudonyms — that is, not philosophers who, as it so happens, for non-philosophical reasons, use pseudonyms, but instead the practice of using pseudonyms for specifically philosophical reasons.

The two most famous examples of pseudonymous philosophers in the history of post-Kantian philosophy are Charles Dodgson,

aka Lewis Carroll,[i]

and the super-pseudonymous Søren Kierkegaard,

aka Victor Eremita — “Victorious Hermit,” general editor of Either/Or, who also appears in the first part of its sequel, Stages on Life’s Way, and lso the author of the satirical article “A Word of Thanks to Professor Heiberg,”

aka A — the anonymous author and editor of the contents of the first book of Either/Or, whom Eremita simply calls “A,” and who represents an “aesthetic” life-view, and also author of “A Cursory Observation Concerning a Detail in Don Giovanni,”

aka Johannes the Seducer — author of The Seducer’s Diary, the final part of the first book of Either/Or, whose relation to “A” is obscure and controversial among scholars, like Eremita, who appears in the first part of Stages,

aka B (or Judge William) — author of the contents of the second book of Either/Or and the second part of Stages, both representing the “ethical” life-view,

aka A.F. — author of the article, “Who is the Author of Either/Or?,”

aka William of Afham — author of the first, “aesthetic” part of Stages, i.e., “In Vino Veritas”: A Recollection. Afham means “by him,” and a draft of Stages has “Rapport ad se ipsum,” Latin for “report to himself,”

aka Frater Taciturnus — “Silent Brother,” author of the third, “religious” part of Stages, i.e., “Guilty?”/“Not Guilty?”. Also author of two articles associated with the “Corsair affair”: “The Activity of a Traveling Esthetician and How He Still Happened to Pay for the Dinner” and “The Dialectical Result of a Literary Police Action.”

aka Quidam — Frater Taciturnus’s “imaginatively constructed” author of the diary portion of “Guilty?”/“Not Guilty?” in Stages (thus, in effect, a construction of a construction), whose name is Latin for “Someone,”

aka Hilarius Bookbinder — recipient, compiler, and publisher of the diverse parts of Stages, whose first name is Latin for “merry” or “joyful,”

aka Johannes de Silentio — “John of Silence,” author of Fear and Trembling, whose last “problema” thematizes the relation of silence and the religious life,

aka Constantin Constantius — author of Repetition, whose name doubly reflects the title and key concept of this work (i.e., in consisting of a “repetition” and in alluding to repetition’s constancy),

aka The Young Man — unnamed poet and author of the letters to Constantius in Repetition, who also appears along with Eremita, the Seducer, and Constantius in the first part of Stages,

aka Vigilius Haufniensis — “Watchman of Copenhagen,” author of The Concept of Anxiety (whose quasi-sequel is Anti-Climacus’s The Sickness Unto Death),

aka Nicolaus Notabene — author of Prefaces, whose name has a twofold reference: N.N. was a Danish abbreviation indicating anonymity (cf. our use of “Mr. X”), while the Latin phrase nota bene means “note well,”

aka Johannes Climacus — author of Philosophical Fragments and Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments (which is, in keeping with Climacus’ pervasive use of irony, roughly five times the size of Fragments itself), and also author of Kierkegaard’s posthumous Johannes Climacus, or: De Omnibus Dubitandum Est, named after St. John Climacus, 7th-century Christian monk and author of The Ladder of Divine Ascent,

aka Anti-Climacus — author of The Sickness Unto Death and Practice in Christianity, where “Anti-” does not signify “against” Climacus, but rather “higher in rank” than him,

aka H.H. — author of Two Ethical-Religious Essays, and Kierkegaard also considered using ‘M.M.’ for this work, or using ‘H.H.’, ‘F.F.’, and ‘P.P.’ as “guerrillas,” or noms de guerre for both this and Practice, but decided upon ‘H.H.’ alone for the former and ‘Anti-Climacus’ for the latter,

aka Inter et Inter — author of The Crisis and a Crisis in the Life of an Actress, whose name is Latin for “between and between,” which suggests an intermission or interlude between Kierkegaard’s religious works and may also call to mind the Latin translation of “either/or,” i.e., “aut/aut,”

aka Procul — author of “Herr Phister as Captain Scipio”; his name, Latin for “from a distance,” may allude to the distance between actor and theatre critic, and perhaps to the distancing tendency of the pseudonymous authorship generally,

not to mention (as it were, since in fact I will now go on to mention them) various unused pseudonyms, including

Petrus Minor — author of The Book on Adler, a book Kierkegaard decided not to publish (for Adler’s sake), and for which he had contemplated several other pseudonyms, including ‘Thomas Minor’, ‘Vincentius Minor’, and ‘Ataraxius Minor’,

A.B.C.D.E.F. Godthaab/Rosenblad — “apprentice author” of the unfinished and posthumous Writing Sampler (intended to be a sequel to Prefaces), where ‘Godthaab’ is Danish for “good hope,” while ‘Rosenblad’ — stricken out on the title page — means “roseleaf” or “rose petal,” and may be a satirical allusion to Claud Rosenhoff, who had authored a review of Either/Or that incurred Kierkegaard’s scorn, but in any case, ‘A.W.S.H. Rosenblad’ and ‘A.W.A.H. Rosenblad’ were also considered — and more ridiculous yet, one draft has “Willibald, Alexander, Alexius, Theodor, Holger Rosenpind or Rosenblad,”

Emanuel Leisetritt — considered for Two Ethical-Religious Essays, or for some other future work, including the variant ‘Doktor Leisetritt’, meaning “Dr. Pussyfoot,” which is an epithet that theologian Thomas Müntzer had applied to Martin Luther,

Esaias Strandsand — Danish for “Isaiah Beachsand,” considered for a prospective piece entitled “Pious Phrase Book or Handbook for Pastors / Containing 500 platitudes / alphabetically arranged / by / A sexton who has been employed by all churches and therefore is well acquainted with platitudes,”

Felix de St. Vincent — “The lucky (or happy) one from St. Victor,” potential author of Writing Sampler, Crisis, and two other unpublished pieces, the four of which Kierkegaard considered publishing under the title “The Writings of a Young Man,”

Simon Stylita — so-called “Solo Dancer and Private Individual,” named after one (or more?) of three 5th–6th-century saints each named Simeon Stylites, and author of a provisional version of Fear and Trembling entitled Between Each Other: Movements and Positions,

Victorinus Constantius de bona speranza — perhaps “victorious constancy of good hope,” and possibly named after 3rd-century martyr St. Victorinus of Pettau, and . potential author of Repetition, and

Victorin Victorius Victor — associated with “Ein, Zwei, Drei / or Three Aphorisms,” incorporated into The Moment 6.1: “Brief and to the Point.”[ii]

64. More generally, however, philosophical pseudonymy has occurred, if not very frequently in the history of philosophy considered as a whole, then at least fairly frequently in certain historical contexts under various kinds of repressive moral, social, and political conditions.[iii]

Within the last 70 years, perhaps the best-known examples of this latter kind of philosophical pseudonymy are the practices of communist, otherwise socialist, or anarchist philosophers in the USA during the McCarthy era.[iv]

But philosophical pseudonymy of the same kind was also practiced during the latter half of World War I in the USA,[v] and also in Europe during the mid-to-late 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century, e.g., by Engels and Marx,[vi] Emma Goldman, and Rosa Luxemburg.

For various reasons, recent or contemporary philosophers have also sometimes engaged in philosophical pseudonymy: e.g., Allen Hazen; David Lewis[vii] and Amélie Rorty,[viii] the latter two reported on Retraction Watch; some feminist philosophers on feminist philosophy blogs;[ix] and of course the anarcho- or borderless philosophers here at Against Professional Philosophy.

The Hazen example is particularly intriguing, because it also involves philosophical cross-dressing or gender-bending:

In 1978 the Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic published a paper on modal logic purportedly by one Marilyn Milberger.[x] The writer was in fact Allen Hazen, a philosopher who has published extensively under his own name in the areas of logic and the philosophy of mathematics. There really was/is such a person as Marilyn Milberger, however; she had at one time been a colleague of Hazen’s, who consented to this use of her name.[xi]

65. Against that general backdrop, it seems clear that there are at least six distinct (that is, logically independent, although some of them consistent and some of them mutually exclusive) reasons for philosophical pseudonymy.

First, philosophers sometimes use pseudonyms in order to avoid censorship, censure, coercion, or persecution, up to and including fines, the termination of their employment, imprisonment, torture, or execution, for expressing (e.g., in written correspondence or in public lectures), circulating or disseminating (e.g., in pamphlet, by samizdat, or on blogs), and/or publishing counterorthodox, forbidden, subversive, or otherwise unpopular (especially moral, political, religious, or sexual — e.g., Goldman on free love) views under their own names (pseudonymy 1).

Second, and closely related to the first reason, philosophers sometimes use pseudonyms in order to avoid professional academic blacklisting for expressing, circulating or disseminating, and/or publishing counterorthodox, forbidden, subversive, or otherwise unpopular views under their own names (pseudonymy 2).

Third, and closely related to the first two reasons, philosophers sometimes use pseudonyms in order to avoid non-professional-academic (e.g., news media- or social media-based) blacklisting for expressing, circulating or disseminating, and/or publishing counterorthodox, forbidden, subversive, or otherwise unpopular views under their own names (pseudonymy 3).

Fourth, and closely related to the first three reasons, but in a diametrically opposed way, philosophers sometimes use pseudonyms precisely in order to be able to accuse, denounce, or otherwise name-&-shame other philosophers for expressing, circulating or disseminating, and/or publishing counterorthodox, forbidden, subversive, or otherwise unpopular views, but at the same time avoid any adverse consequences that might otherwise flow or follow from those accusations, denunciations, or namings-&-shamings, if they used their own names.

In other words, pseudonymy 4 is when philosophers use pseudonyms for the purposes of sending poison-pen letters, naming names, and/or witch-hunting directed against other philosophers.

Fifth, over and above any of the first four reasons, and for sharply different reasons, philosophers sometimes use pseudonyms in order to express, circulate or disseminate, and/or publish works that, as regards their content,are substantively or even radically different from mainstream works of philosophy produced by other philosophers in that historical and social context, or from other works that have already been expressed, circulated or disseminated, and/or published under their own names, in order to avoid the appearance and/or charge of philosophical incoherence or logical inconsistency (pseudonymy 5).

Sixth and finally, again over and above any of the other first four reasons, and again for sharply different reasons, although these are also reasons closely related to the fifth reason, philosophers sometimes use pseudonyms in order to express, circulate or disseminate, and/or publish works that, as regards their presentational formats (rhetoric, style, genre, media, etc.), are substantively or even radically different from mainstream works of philosophy produced by other philosophers in that historical and social context, or from other works that have already been expressed and disseminated and/or published under one’s own names, in order to avoid the appearance and/or charge of philosophical flippancy, self-indulgence, or superficiality (pseudonymy 6).

It’s precisely this sixth reason that seems to have been uppermost in the mind of Dodgson–who was a serious mathematician, logician, and Oxford tutor or don–when he decided to publish “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles” under the Lewis Carroll pseudonym, and of course also the Alice books and Jabberwocky.

Indeed, Dodgson seems to have been at the very least oddly, and perhaps even pathologically, driven to dichotomize or even schizophrenize (if that’s a word)

(i) his intellectual life under the ‘C.L. Dodgson’ guise, and

(ii) his literary/philosophical life under the ‘Lewis Carroll’ guise,

according to this anecdote recounted by Edward Bok:

“Do I understand, Mr. Dodgson, that you are not ‘Lewis Carroll’: that you did not write Alice in Wonderland?”

For an answer the tutor rose, went into another room, and returned with a book which he handed to Bok. “This is my book,” he said simply. It was entitled An Elementary Treatise on Determinants, by C. L. Dodgson. When he looked up, Bok found the author’s eyes riveted on him.

“Yes,” said Bok. “I know, Mr. Dodgson. If I remember correctly, this is the same book of which you sent a copy to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, when she wrote to you for a personal copy of Alice.”

Dodgson made no comment. The face was absolutely without expression save a kindly compassion intended to convey to the editor that he was making a terrible mistake. “As I said to you in the beginning, Mr. Bok, you are in error. You are not speaking to ‘Lewis Carroll’.” And then: “Is this the first time you have visited Oxford?”

And as the trio walked to the station, the don said: “That is his attitude toward all, even toward me. He is not ‘Lewis Carroll’ to any one; is extremely sensitive on the point, and will not acknowledge his identity. That is why he lives so much to himself. He is in daily dread that someone will mention Alice in his presence. Curious, but there it is.”[xii]

66. Now given a set of sufficiently good reasons for defending a morally and politically robust theory of freedom of expression and speech,[xiii] then pseudonymy 1, pseudonymy 2, and pseudonymy 3 are all clearly rationally justified, and morally permissible or even obligatory, and pseudonymy 4 is just as clearly rationally unjustified and immoral.

But now what about pseudonymy 5 and pseudonymy 6?

67. It’s precisely at this point that I can wheel out what I call

(i) the thesis of presentational hylomorphism in works of philosophy, and

(ii) the thesis of presentational polymorphism in works of philosophy,

as directly relevant to philosophical pseudonymy.

The thesis of presentational hylomorphism in works of philosophy says:

There is an essential connection, and in particular, an essential complementarity, between the presentational form (morphê) of philosophical works and their philosophical content (hyle).

And the thesis of presentational polymorphism in works of philosophy says:

Philosophy can be expressed in any presentational format whatsoever, provided that it satisfies the thesis of presentational hylomorphism in works of philosophy.

In these ways, philosophical pseudonymy according to pseudonymy 5 and pseudonymy 6 can express the almost entirely unrestricted creative freedom of choice with respect to presentational format that’s available to highly original and real (that is, authentic, serious) philosophers who are also fully attentive to the full integration of presentational form and philosophical content in their philosophical works.

68. Correspondingly, Kierkegaard is self-evidently the leading exemplar of philosophical pseudonymy according to pseudonymy 5 and pseudonymy 6.

Here’s what William McDonald says about that:

Hegelianism promised to make absolute knowledge available by virtue of a science of logic. Anyone with the capacity to follow the dialectical progression of the purportedly transparent concepts of Hegel’s logic would have access to the mind of God (which for Hegel was equivalent to the logical structure of the universe). Kierkegaard thought this to be the hubristic attempt to build a new tower of Babel, or a scala paradisi — a dialectical ladder by which humans can climb with ease up to heaven. Kierkegaard’s strategy was to invert this dialectic by seeking to make everything more difficult. Instead of seeing scientific knowledge as the means of human redemption, he regarded it as the greatest obstacle to redemption. Instead of seeking to give people more knowledge he sought to take away what passed for knowledge. Instead of seeking to make God and Christian faith perfectly intelligible he sought to emphasize the absolute transcendence by God of all human categories. Instead of setting himself up as a religious authority, Kierkegaard used a vast array of textual devices to undermine his authority as an author and to place responsibility for the existential significance to be derived from his texts squarely on the reader.

Kierkegaard distanced himself from his texts by a variety of devices which served to problematize the authorial voice for the reader. He used pseudonyms in many of his works (both overtly aesthetic ones and overtly religious ones). He partitioned the texts into prefaces, forewords, interludes, postscripts, appendices. He assigned the “authorship” of parts of texts to different pseudonyms, and invented further pseudonyms to be the editors or compilers of these pseudonymous writings. Sometimes Kierkegaard appended his name as author, sometimes as the person responsible for publication, sometimes not at all. Sometimes Kierkegaard would publish more than one book on the same day. These simultaneous books embodied strikingly contrasting perspectives. He also published whole series of works simultaneously, viz. the pseudonymous works on the one hand and on the other hand the Edifying Discourses published under his own name.

All of this play with narrative point of view, with contrasting works, and with contrasting internal partitions within individual works leaves the reader very disoriented. In combination with the incessant play of irony and Kierkegaard’s predilection for paradox and semantic opacity, the text becomes a polished surface for the reader in which the prime meaning to be discerned is the reader’s own reflection. Christian faith, for Kierkegaard, is not a matter of learning dogma by rote. It is a matter of the individual repeatedly renewing h/er passionate subjective relationship to an object which can never be known, but only believed in. This belief is offensive to reason, since it only exists in the face of the absurd (the paradox of the eternal, immortal, infinite God being incarnated in time as a finite mortal).

Kierkegaard’s “method of indirect communication” was designed to sever the reliance of the reader on the authority of the author and on the received wisdom of the community. The reader was to be forced to take individual responsibility for knowing who s/he is and for knowing where s/he stands on the existential, ethical and religious issues raised in the texts.[xiv]

69. In view of all that, then it’s highly misleading and mistaken for Retraction Watch, or indeed anyone else, to claim or pretend that there is something prima facie unprincipled, unsavory, or wrong about philosophical pseudonymy as such, since only pseudonymy 4 is rationally unjustified and immoral.

Indeed, wholly on the contrary, not only are pseudonymy 1–3 rationally justified and morally permissible or even obligatory, but also pseudonymy 5 and pseudonymy 6 are fully philosophically justified by the theses of presentational hylomorphism and presentational polymorphism.

— Moreover, it can also be highly hypocritical to claim or pretend that there’s something prima facie unprincipled, unsavory, or wrong about philosophical pseudonymy as such, since as far as I can tell, the standard practice of Retraction Watch and other scandal-mongering professional philosophy blogs[xv] is precisely to engage in, or otherwise promote, various forms of pseudonymy 4.

So, on behalf of anarcho- or borderless philosophy, I’ll conclude by exhorting all actual philosophical pseudonymists (except, of course, for poison-pen-style pseudonymists according to pseudonymy 4, who should all cease and desist) to follow the deliriously creative example of Kierkegaard, and all merely aspirational philosophical pseudonymists (ditto, with bells on) to go out a make a name for yourself.

Søren Kierkegaard; drawing by Niels Christian Kierkegaard, circa 1840


[ii] See u/Conclusive Postscript, “A ‘Who’s Who’ of Kierkegaard’s Formidable Army of Pseudonyms,” Reddit (2014), available online at URL = <>.

[iii] See, e.g., C. Bradatan, Dying for Ideas: The Dangerous Lives of the Philosophers (London: Bloomsbury, 2015).

[iv] See, e.g., V. Navasky, Naming Names: The Social Costs of McCarthyism (rev. edn., New York: Hill and Wang, 2003).

[v] See, e.g., H.C. Peterson and G.C. Fite, Opponents of War, 1917–1918 (Madison, WI: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1957).

[vi] See, e.g., J. Sperber, Karl Marx: A Nineteeth-Century Life (New York: Liveright, 2013), esp. chs. 1–9.

[vii] Retraction Watch, “After 35 Years, Philosophy Journal Corrects Article…By a Cat” (1 August 2017), available online at URL = <>.

[viii] Retraction Watch, “An Accomplished Philosopher Invented a Pseudonym. Why?” (13 October 2017), available online at URL = <>.

[ix] See, e.g., Feminist Philosophers, “Pseudonyms” (25 December 2014), available online at URL = <>.

[x] M. Milberger, “The Minimal Modal Logic: A Cautionary Tale About Primitives and Definitions,” Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 19 (1978), 486–488.

[xi] L. Humberstone, “Names and Pseudonyms,” Philosophy 70 (1995): 487–512, at p. 503.

[xii] E. Bok, The Americanization of Edward Bok: The Autobiography of a Dutch Boy Fifty Years After (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1923), pp. 221–224.

[xiii] See, e.g., R. Hanna, Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism: A Theological-Political Treatise (THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, Vol. 4) (New York: Nova Science, 2018), section 3.12.

[xiv] W. McDonald, “Søren Kierkegaard,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. E.N. Zalta (Winter 2017 Edition), available online at URL = <>.

[xv] See, e.g., J. Weinberg, “On Amélie Rorty’s Use of a Pseudonym,” Daily Nous (13 October 2017), available online at URL = <>.


Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Sunday 21 April 2019

Against Professional Philosophy is a sub-project of the online mega-project Philosophy Without Borders, which is home-based on Patreon here.

Please consider becoming a patron!

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store