Baylor University Institute for Faith & Learning


Kierkegaard: A Christian Thinker for Our Time?

2013 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture
Thursday, October 31-Saturday, November 2
Baylor University, Waco, Texas


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Aho, Karl

Karl Aho
Graduate Student
Baylor University

Living, Like the Lillies, in the Present: Kierkegaard on Our Attitudes towards Time

Kierkegaard, through his hyper-Christian pseudonym Anti-Climacus, famously echoes St. Augustine's claim that we are fundamentally restless until we rest in God. Some readers criticize Kierkegaard for the strength of this claim, arguing that he denies the goodness of temporal existence in order to direct his reader towards eternity. In this paper, I argue for a contrary claim: that Kierkegaard recommends a certain understanding of living contentedly in the present. In addition to affirming the importance of our future life in eternity, Kierkegaard contends that we should be content with our existence in the present, just as the lily of the field and the bird of the air are content with the kinds of existence they have been given.

To defend this thesis, I first briefly survey the work of several authors (e.g. Patrick Stokes, David Kangas, and John McCumber) who argue that Kierkegaard thinks our attention should be directed towards the future or the past at the expense of the present. Since Kierkegaard's claims about the relationship of time and eternity have been discussed in metaphysical and theological contexts, I will address the ways in which both ontological and moral approaches to Kierkegaard's philosophy of time have emphasized the future (or in Kangas's case, the past) at the expense of the present. Second, I devote the bulk of the paper to developing Kierkegaard's argument for living contentedly in the present. Finally, I conclude by discussing some metaphysical and moral implications of Kierkegaard's claims.

In his Upbuilding Discourse "What we learn from the lilies in the field and from the birds of the air," Kierkegaard argues that we should live in the present like the lilies and the birds do. They do not worry about the future and neither should we. However, since humans are syntheses of the temporal and the eternal, we cannot simply live in and enjoy the present. We are always directed towards the past or the future. We even have specific concerns about the future, e.g. what we will wear. Yet attending to the future need not prevent us with being content in the present. Kierkegaard writes that we shall become like the lilies and the birds. That is, we will someday be able to live in the present without our temporal concerns preventing us from enjoying that present. How is this possible?

On my reading of Kierkegaard's Upbuilding Discourse, properly living in the present involves being directed towards the future in ways that the lilies and the birds are not. Specifically, we are called to be co-workers with God in striving to bring about the right sort of future. By being properly directed towards and working to bring about the right sort of future, we can learn to not worry about that future. This freedom from worry allows us to be content in and enjoy the present, despite the fact that (in this earthly life) we do not fully rest transparently in the power that established us.

Considering 'the Lily and the Bird' and its importance for Kierkegaard's philosophy of time has both metaphysical and moral implications. Metaphysically, considering 'The Lily and the Bird' shows that Kierkegaard does not always affirm one-directional and asymmetrical attitudes towards time. He does not reductively direct us towards the past or the future. Instead, he directs us to consider the past, the present, the future, and our future life in eternity (and the eschatological judgment before God that precedes it). Supplementing Kierkegaard's emphasis on the future with his view of living contentedly in the present allows us to better understand Kierkegaard's place among the many 19th-century philosophers of time. Morally, having a proper relationship to the past and the future enables living more contentedly in the present. Although this sort of contentedness may be only a regulative ideal and not a state that can be maintained, it provides us with at least a partial account of central features of living—and enjoying—the good life. In fact, the emphasis on learning how to live contentedly in the present may support interpretations of Kierkegaard as a virtue ethicist. I conclude that Kierkegaard is a Christian thinker for our time in part because of the ways in which he instructs us in how to attend to our future life in eternity while living contentedly in the present.

Bailey Parker, Courtney

Courtney Bailey Parker
Doctoral Student
Baylor University

Understanding "Despair" through Renaissance Allegory: Spenser's The Faerie Queene and Kierkegaard's The Sickness Unto Death

Literature, especially allegorical literature, can help us see the richness and complexity of a concept as abstract as "despair," the central focus of Kierkegaard's The Sickness Unto Death (1849). Edmund Spenser's 35,000 line epic poem, The Faerie Queene (1590), is in the business of large-scale allegory, and its depiction of the interaction between "Despayre" (a personified figure) and the Redcrosse Knight (the protagonist of Book I) chronicles not only a character's descent into despair (or acedia), but also the grueling process by which despair is eradicated. Although Spenser lived nearly 250 years before Kierkegaard, the stages of the Redcrosse Knight's convalescence from the pangs of acedia resonate with Kierkegaard's methodic deconstruction of the the condition of despair.

In this proposed paper, I argue that we might better understand Kierkegaard's explication of despair through a reading of Spenser's allegorical depiction of "the sickness unto death"; in this instance, literature that concerns itself with knights, damsels, and mythical quests illuminates what is often considered a densely complex philosophical concept.

According to Kierkegaard, despair might be characterized as a physical and psychological sickness. Spenser represents this intersection of physical and psychological symptoms in Redcrosse, subjecting his protagonist to catechization, spiritual edification, and a brutal purification ritual (requiring a phantasmic surgeon) in the lower regions of the House of Holiness, one of Spenser's allegorical "houses." The Redcrosse Knight's despair, initially provoked by a confrontation with Despayre himself and a suicide attempt, continually frustrates attempts to heal him. Only when Redcrosse sees his future as Saint George, the patron saint of England, does he fully recognize his humanness and his connection to God. This, of course, is a component of the central thesis of Kierkegaard's The Sickness Unto Death, that the remedy for despair is to establish a relationship with one's creator and to see one's full human potential.

This is the central problem of the Redcrosse Knight within the Faeryland universe: he believes himself to be of elfin origins, but discovers only at the end of his recovery from despair that he is indeed human and the future Saint George. The revelation of his humanness and his preordained role as a saint-in-training connects him with his Creator through divine calling. What is problematic about Spenser's account of the Redcrosse Knight's convalescence from spiritual despair is that the ultimate model for spiritual purity, Contemplation, is a relatively negative character in the episode. Indeed, the figure Contemplation does not appear much different from Despayre in physical appearance, habitation, or demeanor.

A close reading of Spenser's episode, particularly the episode's conclusion with the character Contemplation, calls into question the ultimate result of the eradication of despair according to Kierkegaard: Once a despairing Christian sees himself as fully human and connected to his Creator, what really happens next? Spenser's The Faerie Queene suggests that the result may not be as triumphant as we would expect.

Barba, Christopher

Christopher Barba
Ph.D. Student
Universidad Iberoamericana

An Existential Inheritance for Christianity: The Anxiety in the Theological Understanding of Hans Urs von Balthasar

One of the central aspects of the Works of Kierkegaard is the thorough analysis that he offers in The Concept of Anxiety, since there he presents, in an original way, the topics of freedom and anxiety as central and real dimensions of human existence, in certain sense, we find with different meanings and classifications of anxiety that make the reader to be disposed for a new understanding, not only of the title of the work, but of freedom. Anxiety as the dizziness of freedom, anxiety as being able as possibility, not only allude to the dramatically dialectical movement to which man is confronted, but also placed in front of his being and into his being in the world as an existing individual. The aim of this paper is to present how has been the reception of this by one of the greatest catholic theologian of the past century: Hans Urs von Balthasar, who in all his extensive production quotes recurrently the danish philosopher, sometimes (not few) directly, other times without explicit mention. But is seems that he uses the existential conception inherited by Kierkegaard, who has awaken such interest in him, that in his production he has left us a work entitled: The Christian and Anxiety of 1959. Thus, in the present work, it will be exposed in a first moment in a general view, the conception of Balthasar with respect to anxiety and freedom presenting his own formulation and in this way having an horizon to compare it with Kierkegaard; in a second moment, we will underline the elements that Balthasar takes from Kierkegaard and that inclusive they can be identified in other of his works, principally about freedom as via of anxiety and as the existential form of the Christian; in a third moment, we will show in what sense exists an encounter between the two authors and in which points are irreconcilable, but above all we will try to show that both of them placed anxiety as the essence of the being in the world of the Christian, as an eloquent evidence of the transcendental aspiration of man and a valid argument in favor of repentance as via of recovering, reencounter and redemption of the most worthy of man. Then, the conclusion seeks to be only an invitation to discover the actuality of the thought of the Dane in the catholic theology and to what extent the philosophy of existence of Kierkegaard can be considered, in certain sense, a locis theologicis that could broad the understanding of man in his most original sense and in in some way, in his most Christian sense.

Barnes, Stephen

Stephen Barnes
Associate Professor of English
University of Mary Hardin - Baylor

Kierkegaard and the Parabolic Tradition

One of the points upon which Søren Kierkegaard's reputation stands is as a great parabolist. As an author of parables, Kierkegaard uses the genre to communicate by way of indirection and circumlocution, a deliberately obfuscated literary style seemingly intended to trouble—more than delight—its readers. In Sallie McFague's essay "The Parabolic in Faulkner, O'Connor, and Percy," she identifies the way that Kierkegaard influenced writer, particularly those from the American South, during the last century, tracing the most direct artistic lineage, of course, from Walker Percy back to his Danish master. But literary critics should approach any genre bearing in mind, to borrow from Hermann Broch, that the "sole raison d'être" of a given literary form "is to discover what only [that genre] can discover." Hence, we must ask what it is that the form of the parable is able "to discover" that necessitates its choice for both Kierkegaard and his literary descendants. Likewise, we may consider the nature of the discovery/discoveries that Kierkegaard senses in the stories of the greatest parabolist, Jesus of Nazareth, that prompted him to craft a narrative style like that of the parables in the gospels. Whatever we may ultimately say about parables, we can start by identifying them as troubling narratives that destabilize the conventional moral order and move their audiences to consider essential questions that upset the status quo. Their enigmatic and disorienting nature can cause the reader to respond to the parabolist, as J. D. Crossan has put it, in the following way: "I don't know what you mean by that story, but I'm certain I don't like it." Crossan's characterization of the reader's response captures the parable's ability to transcend tidy interpretation while, at the same time, to challenge that which the reader holds dear. But if Broch is right, then we must assume that parables are the only appropriate genre for this kind of disorienting and then reorienting work. That is to say, they are the sole means by which this imaginative "conversion" might take place. A possible explanation of their appropriateness can be found in the way that parables attempt to engage their listeners. They do so in the same way that spirituality itself engages us. In fact, the line between receiving these imaginative works and maturing spiritually is one that almost disappears. To examine one's soul, in penitential and prayerful introspection, is a spiritual act not unlike the act of reflecting on the parables. Spiritual maturation seems to require a discipline that is akin to the contemplation of these stories. And spiritual maturity, life, or growth seems to correspond to the listener's ability to take in these stories. In other words, the will of the listener is challenged by such stories, and interpretation (understanding?) of their meaning depends upon the hearer's disposition toward the parable's truth. Some walk away (willfully) perplexed; others (also perplexed, perhaps) move in closer. Hence, parables, as many critics have noted, are marked by their ability to divide their listeners. Looking at the work of biblical theologians Sallie McFague, J.D. Crossan, and Gregory J. Laughery, and literary theorist Paul Ricoeur, we can discover that parables, in their extravagance, have the power to establish something new as they subvert the existing order. It is the parable's ability to simultaneously tear down and rebuild the moral order that arguably has marked modern short fiction, with Kierkegaard as, arguably, one of the greatest forebears of the modern parabolic literary sensibility.

Bellinger, Charles

Charles Bellinger
Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics
Brite Divinity School

Kierkegaard's Critique of Individualism

Kierkegaard was often criticized in the middle of the twentieth century for being "too individualistic"; toward the later part of the twentieth century many leading Kierkegaard scholars developed a response to this charge, claiming that it was based on a faulty reading of the texts. I seek to make a u-turn on the faulty commentaries by arguing that if we want to criticize individualism in contemporary culture Kierkegaard is one of the strongest resources we can turn to.

The charge of excessive individualism arises out of the intuition that life is very complex, and to focus too narrowly on the single individual fails to grasp that complexity. I will show that Kierkegaard was deeply aware of the complexity of reality (nature, society, self, time, and God), and he presented an ideal vision of balancing the dimensions of reality. His emphasis on "becoming oneself before God" was not a constriction, but actually a gateway that opens out onto life lived in the tension of complexity. The individualism that is clearly a prominent aspect of modern culture does not arise out of being in sync with Kierkegaard's message but rather out of rejecting it. In making this case I will draw primarily on key works in the second authorship, such as "Purity of Heart," Works of Love, and The Sickness unto Death.

I will show that the writings of certain more recent authors can help us to grasp Kierkegaard's vision of complexity more clearly. Eric Voegelin's thought placed a vision of the balance of consciousness at the center of his philosophical anthropology; his message is in tune with Kierkegaard. Richard Weaver spoke of living in the Center, which expresses piety toward nature, God, and the wisdom of tradition; he also resonates with SK. Chantal Delsol's The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century articulates a critique of Nazism and Stalinism, and claims that individualism today continues the mistakes of those utopian ideologies, in an altered form. Her distinction between individualism as a pathology and genuine subjectivity is a precise parallel with false and true forms of selfhood in Kierkegaard's writings.

I will conclude with comments on the highly contentious abortion debate today. The standard pro-choice rhetoric usually relies on precisely the type of individualism that I claim is critiqued by Kierkegaard. Such rhetoric tends to see nature as a threat, society as a menace, and God as irrelevant. It has difficulty thinking in tune with the Golden Rule. The pro-life side, however, often expresses its message with a tone of self-righteousness that was also undermined by Kierkegaard. His emphasis on the universality of sin means that there is always an analogy or parallel or similarity between the various shape-shifting pathologies of human history. To the extent that pro-life advocates adopt a superior attitude, they are rejecting Kierkegaard's basic idea that "before God we are always in the wrong"; we are always in need of grace. A society made up of individuals who understood and lived into that insight would have a very different texture than ours does.

Bender, Kimlyn J.

Kimlyn J. Bender
Associate Professor of Theology
George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

Soren Kierkegaard and Karl Barth on the Question of the Contemporaneity of Disciple and Witness

The relationship between Soren Kierkegaard and Karl Barth is one that has received some significant attention. Barth acknowledged a specific debt to Kierkegaard in the Preface to the second edition of the Romans commentary early in his career,and he made further acknowledgment of Kierkegaard's important place in his theology upon receiving the Sonning Prize in Denmark later in his life. Barth's debt to Kierkegaard is disputed in terms of its lasting impact and extent, but there is no doubt that Barth's early emphasis upon the "infinite qualitative distinction" between God and humanity, as well as the indirectness of revelation in the paradox of divine revelation taking up a creaturely medium in which their unity remains one of irrevocable distinction, was a lasting theme in Barth's thought that found its ally, if not its source, in Kierkegaard's religious reflection.

While questions of the indirectness of revelation, the relation of God and the world, and the incarnation have often been explored in a comparison of Barth and Kierkegaard, I want to focus upon a much lesser known area of similarity and distinctive difference. In chapters 4 & 5 of the Philosophical Fragments, Kierkegaard in essence takes up the question of historical distance between the disciple of today and the time of Christ, and thus between the immediate disciples of Jesus and those of our own time. In this discussion, Kierkegaard, in a way consistent with his central concerns, focuses upon the subjective pole of revelation—i.e., upon contemporaneity as a question of the appropriation of revelation and the question of faith and discipleship past and present.

Kierkegaard's reasoning interestingly shows up in Barth's first set of dogmatic lectures, what has come to be known as the Gottingen Dogmatics, but now, in accordance with Barth's turn away from internal subjectivity to the objective pole of revelation in Christology and the Word of God that comes from outside of us, Barth employs Kierkegaard's reasoning (whether consciously or unconsciously) not to demonstrate the contemporaneity of the disciple of today with that of Christ's time, but to ground the revelation of today received by the church through Scripture with the apostolic testimony of Jesus' own contemporaries and the later apostolic traditions that became inscripturated in the Bible. In other words, Barth speaks of the contemporaneity of the appointed apostolic witness to Christ of his contemporaries and the witness of today. He thus acknowledges the historical distance that separates the apostles who gave rise to Scripture via their witness to Christ from the witness to Christ of today, and the greater distance that exists between belief and unbelief that relativizes that historical distance.

In my paper, I attempt to delineate Kierkegaard's notion of contemporaneity and compare this to Barth's own notion, showing how Kierkegaard's reasoning pertaining to subjective faith and obedience in the disciple past and present has now been translated into Barth's objectivism to undergird the unity of the witness to Christ of the past (authoritatively found in the canon of Scripture) and the witness of the present, quintessentially seen in the event of church proclamation. In other words, whereas Kierkegaard focuses upon the notion of discipleship and cross, Barth focuses upon the notion of witness and resurrection. In yet other terms, whereas Kierkegaard focuses upon the faith of the disciple (fide qua creditur), Barth focuses upon the content of revelation (fide quae creditur), yet both use contemporanaeity to explain the unity of disciples and witnesses past and present respectively in such a way to overcome the matter of historical distance between the time of Christ and our own day. What they share in common is a refusal to equate revelation and history, and thus they reject historical criticism as the means to uncover the significance of Jesus. This can only be revealed to faith.

I will close with some observations of how these similarities and differences can complement one another and how they might assist the church's contemporary confession, witness, and obedience today.

Bennett, Kyle David

Kyle David Bennett

The Commended Surgeon: Irony in Søren Kierkegaard and Richard Rorty

Little work has been done on the similarities and differences in the philosophies of Kierkegaard and the late American pragmatist, Richard Rorty. Yet they share similar motivations, themes, and critiques. For example, both cast trenchant critiques of the current state of philosophy in their day; both expressed a similar appreciation for fiction and stressed the role novels play in moral formation; and both discussed the concepts of irony and edification throughout their authorship. As a foray into an exploration of similarities and differences in their philosophies, this paper will focus on the latter topic, their discussions of irony and edification.

Both Kierkegaard and Rorty discussed irony with reference to both edification and selfhood. In his university dissertation Kierkegaard said that "anyone who does not understand irony at all, who has no ear for its whispering, lacks eo ipso what could be called the absolute beginning of personal life …" Rorty wrote that "ironists" are "never quite able to take themselves seriously because [they] are always aware that the terms in which they describe themselves are subject to change, always aware of the contingency and fragility of their final vocabularies, and thus of their selves." Why are both of them concerned with irony? Why do they discuss irony in relation to selfhood? Why and how do they see edification as a term for describing the process of coming to selfhood through irony? Ultimately, though, do they think irony is edifying? If not, do they think it can be? When and how could we imagine it being edifying particularly within Christian discourse and life?

I will develop this line of questioning and argumentation in two sections. The first section will introduce Kierkegaard and Rorty's respective concepts of irony, highlighting the similarities and differences in their discussions and how they relate irony to edification and personhood. The second section will explore the application this has for our contemporary context. I will argue that Kierkegaard's discussion of irony and edification (with some challenges and insights from Rorty) presents some timely considerations for following Christ in our 21st century American culture. In particular, I will argue that irony can and should have a role in communicating the gospel and edifying believers in their walk with Christ. As Kierkegaard puts it, it is an "excellent surgeon" to be commended. I will indicate the ways in which this is and can be true.

Benyousky, Daniel

Daniel Benyousky
Ph.D. Student
Baylor University

The Genius and the Apostle: Søren Kierkegaard and W.H. Auden on Authority

Though Søren Kierkegaard's influence on the thought and poetry of W.H. Auden has long been established, Auden scholarship has neglected the important influence Kierkegaard's Of the Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle had on Auden. One aspect of this influence that I examine in my paper is reflected in Auden's prose. For instance, Auden wrote an introduction to and selected the excerpts included in an anthology of Kierkegaard's works, where he considers Kierkegaard as "a genius not as an apostle." Moreover, Auden continued his meditations on Of the Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle in his essay "Genius and Apostle." Furthermore, I will consider the impact Kierkegaard's work had on Auden's poetry, where I will particularly focus on the poem "Ode to Terminus."

In Of the Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle, as the title suggests, Kierkegaard distinguishes between a genius and an Apostle, where the former exists in an immanent realm, and the latter in a transcendent realm. Genius is created and developed within an individual, whereas an Apostle is called by God, regardless of development of talent, and paradoxically in spite of any talents. A central point of emphasis for Kierkegaard's differentiation between a genius and an Apostle is that of authority. An Apostle possesses divine authority, while a genius boasts none, rather being judged aesthetically and philosophically. Kierkegaard's ambition in this work is to levy a corrective on Christendom's misguided beliefs about authority.

Auden institutes a similar critique on those that inappropriately assume the role of divine authority in the poem "Ode to Terminus." In the poem, Auden, himself an ardent supporter of science and the son of a physician, is critiquing the role of divine authority that some scientists have taken upon themselves, the role of the Apostle rather than the genius. Auden challenges the proclamations of these "High Priests of telescopes and cyclotrons," who believe they possess the power to translate "into the vulgar anthropomorphic / tongue" inanimate objects into living beings (1, 8-9). Auden invokes Terminus, "God of walls, doors, and reticence," whose gift is reminding humans of their finitude, which is represented by his "giving us games and grammar and metres" (47, 50). Auden's invocation of Terminus serves two central functions; it is an imaginative and aesthetic entreaty to humanity to consider its own limits, while yet regarding such finitude as a gift that properly orders life. Moreover, Auden is employing a further Kierkegaardian notion with this gift, the use of indirect communication to express a significant truth. Indeed, an important myth for Auden was the shield of Perseus, which he used as the title of the section where the above mentioned essay the "Genius and Apostle" is located. In this myth, Perseus uses his shield as a mirror in which he may see and destroy Medusa. Auden envisioned this mirror as a metaphor for the mediation of art. For Auden, Kierkegaard's indirect communication and the shield of Perseus both indicate art's role as a mediator in reality. Auden's references to Terminus, as well as the creation of Earth, "Judgement," and the "Sun-Father" that "is felt as a friendly / presence not a photonic bombardment" all suggest and redirect the reader in an indirect, or mediated fashion, toward the God of Auden's Anglican faith (24, 25, 27-28).

The second function of this invocation permits Auden an appeal to scientists that make the misguided claim of divine authority. Auden ends the poem by considering scientists in the same aesthetic category as poets, as they are genius', not Apostles, in his reckoning. Auden believes it is therefore vital for them to know their authority, or lack thereof. Otherwise, they may become "self-proclaimed poets who, to wow an / audience, utter some resonant lie" (61-62). For Auden, this location of authority beyond the limits of humanity has significant consequences on his poetry. And Kierkegaard provides Auden with a conceptual framework, particularly in Of the Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle, with which to better understand human and divine authority. My examination of this influence will advance Auden scholarship by considering an unexplored, yet significant connection between Kierkegaard and Auden. Perhaps more importantly for this conference, it will demonstrate Kierkegaard's continuing impact, through Auden, on contemporary readers and scholars of his poetry.

Black, Eric

Eric Black
Resident Fellow
B.H. Carroll Theological Institute

Rehearsing Death: Kierkegaard's Missionary as Example for Individuals and Churches

Kierkegaard's category of "the missionary" provides an example for how individuals and organizations may learn to die through the rehearsal of dying to the self and to the world.

Concerning Kierkegaard's treatment of death, Wilhelm Anz writes that "learning to die is the appropriate comportment in relation to death, and that it carries within it a relationship to the God who grants us our capacity for death." Conversely, learning to die may also be the appropriate comportment in relation to life, carrying within it a relationship to the God who grants the capacity for life. A person's best approach to death may very well be in making the rehearsal of death a way of living, though not in a morbid sense. Existing as a missionary in the Kierkegaardian sense allows for the rehearsal of death in a way that gives great meaning to one's present life.

"The missionary" appears only seventeen times in Kierkegaard's writings and has not been thoroughly studied in any published work to date. Therefore, the presentation will focus on the appearances of "the missionary" in Kierkegaard's writings while seeking to support the claim stated above with a brief explanation of how certain historical, philosophical, categorical, and textual concerns define Kierkegaard's missionary.

Historically, Kierkegaard's "missionary" is deeply informed by his childhood exposure to Moravianism. Philosophically, "the missionary" is understood as an existence communication expressing Kierkegaard's understanding of direct and indirect communication and subjectivity. Understood categorically, "the missionary" is tied to "the single individual," "the witness to the truth," "the apostle," and "the martyr." Textually, "the missionary" appears most often in Kierkegaard's later writings, in particular his religious writings with relation to the essentially Christian manner of existing. Complete with its historical, philosophical, categorical, and textual contexts, "the missionary" suggests how a person may learn to die through the repeated dying to the self and to the world necessary to become a missionary. As such, "the missionary" may be understood as an educational category.

In addition to what an individual may gain from such a study of Kierkegaard's "missionary," organizations like churches may also learn to die through becoming missionaries.

Boria, Damon

Damon Boria
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Our Lady of the Lake College

Neither Silence nor Speech: Kierkegaard's Communication Problem and the Space of Literature

In a short essay titled "Kierkegaard's Journals" Maurice Blanchot shows that he finds in Kierkegaard a life and an oeuvre that duly embrace the "enigma" that occupies every life and literary work. In his life, Kierkegaard acted, but—at some particularly decisive moments—with unclear reasons. In his writings, he communicated, but indirectly. The enigma of his life choices—such as his choice to end his engagement—and the indirectness of his writings—which took the form of a meticulously planned multi-pseudonymous authorship and a style that tempts labels like literary philosophy and philosophical literature—both lead the curious eye to a secret. But this secret is not there to be discovered. Kierkegaard writes and Blanchot cites: "On that which constitutes in a total and essential way, in the most intimate way, my existence, I cannot speak." So, as Blanchot says, "We know that the theme of the secret is essential in the life and work of Kierkegaard."

What seems to infatuate Blanchot most about Kierkegaard is the idea that the keeping of a secret—perhaps regardless of the secret's content—is the necessary knife with which an individual can carve out a self. The essence of a secret, after all, is its being buried away from others. As such, the secret seems quite suitable for a project of inward deepening. Just like with Kierkegaard, Blanchot's biography is relevant. Having lived a significantly reclusive life, it seems he empathized with what he thought haunted Kierkegaard, namely, the upshot of the necessary connection between secrecy and selfhood—that the final destination is absolute isolation.

One of the tasks of this paper is to examine whether Blanchot's claim that the final Kierkegaardian destination—the knight of faith—is, in fact, absolute isolation. There are reasons to think this is not the case. First, there is the fact that a precondition of secret-keeping is the presence of others. So, in a condition of absolute isolation, secret-keeping and perhaps inward deepening would be impossible. Second, there is the fact that Kierkegaard's knight of infinite resignation might stake claim to absolute isolation. If this alternative scenario is more fitting, then there is a need to examine the meaning of the fact that the knight of faith is a social being—albeit one with a secret.

I argue that, on one hand, the knight of faith is a "no" to the social insofar as the social today has to do with the excessive and unprecedented ways in which the inner lives of individuals are becoming public. From this perspective, Kierkegaard's advocacy for the secret is more pertinent than ever. But I also argue that, on the other hand, the knight of faith is a "yes" to the social insofar as communications with the social world are required to pursue the final Kierkegaardian destination. Kierkegaard's works, in their literariness, perform both the "no" and the "yes." That is, by communicating the task of becoming an enigma, he effectively achieved this task for himself. I conclude by suggesting that literature—in its being written and in its being read—is there for all of us to become selves.

Bradley, Daniel

Daniel Bradley
Assistant Professor
Gonzaga University

Ligatio ex Nihilo: Original Sin and the Hope for Redemption—An Alternate Path through the Darkness of Kierkegaard's Phenomenology of Anxiety

In The Concept of Anxiety, Kierkegaard makes a brilliant phenomenological distinction between anxiety and fear. If I ask what you are afraid of, the answer may be snakes, ignorant accreditation boards, or a double-dip recession, but fear always seems to be of an object, even if that object is rather vague. If, by asking what one may be anxious about, we try to mold the act of anxiousness into the transitive form that structures fear, Kierkegaard tells us that "linguistic usage says pregnantly: to be anxious about nothing" (CA 43). So far this is merely a curiosity of language; it is Kierkegaard's explanation of the nature of this "nothing" that will resound throughout Twentieth Century philosophy. Kierkegaard tells us that while we may fear this or that possibility, in the opening of anxiety to nothing we face the disconcerting encounter with possibility itself. This is the way Kierkegaard formulates the connection: anxiety "is altogether different from fear and similar concepts that refer to something definite, whereas anxiety is freedom's actuality as the possibility of possibility" (CA 42). With this connection between anxiety, the nothing, possibility, and freedom, the roots have been planted for a great genealogical tree, whose branches will flourish with the work of Heidegger, Sartre, Levinas, Derrida, Marion, and others.

However, by correlating anxiety with "fear and similar concepts," Kierkegaard has left the door open for a richer exploration of the experience of anxiety, one that cannot be reduced to an encounter with the possible (or the impossible). In this article I argue that by looking at anxiety in the light of guilt as well as fear, we can open the experience of anxiety to the kind of careful hermeneutics advocated by Ricoeur and thus uncover important aspects of this phenomenon that have been ignored. Kierkegaard is correct that anxiety goes beyond fear of this or that possibility to stand before possibility itself, thus goading us into a confrontation with freedom. But anxiety also goes beyond guilt for this or that sin or moral violation to stand before sinfulness itself, and thus, if we listen, it has the potential to spur us toward a confrontation with the illusions and deceit that disfigure both consciousness and our social structures. Kierkegaard does not ignore this relation. In fact, he believes that anxiety is crucial for understanding sinfulness in terms of its structure, its origin, and its ultimate meaning. So we will have to follow his thinking from a static account of the structural relation between freedom and guilt, through his confrontation with the dogmatic account of hereditary sin, to his most fundamental understanding of sinfulness in the light of hope for the overcoming of alienation in a dialectical re-interpretation of the Christian concept of salvation history. This is a rich account, but at no place does Kierkegaard make room for an for a reflection on anxiety before the nothing that is not reduced to the categories of possibility. However, in tracing the course of this one-dimensional approach we are faced with difficulties that inspire a return to Kierkegaard's original formulation, "anxiety about nothing," and looked at in the light of guilt as well as fear, we see that anxiety teaches us to face possibility in a way that inspires us to look to the future with hope in an authentic engagement with freedom, but it also teaches us to face the illusions that distort our lives and cultures in a way that inspires us to look to the past with a wariness that puts to use all our careful genealogical strategies in a "hermeneutics of suspicion."

Brake, Matthew

Matthew Brake
Academic Advisor
Regent University

In Search of a Kierkegaardian Pneumatology

In examining the life and writings of Søren Kierkegaard, I will piece together a Kierkegaardian pneumatology consisting of elements from Kierkgaard's background and mystical experience, his implicit pneumatological references, and his explicit references to the Holy Spirit. From this examination, I will critique, and eventually contribute, to renewal studies by weaving Kierkegaardian pneumatology with the pentecostal/charismatic experience of the Holy Spirit. This exercise should provide insight into the role of emotions, affections, and passions in religious experience as well as highlighting the place of the three cardinal virtues of faith, hope, and love in Kierkegaard's pneumatology. Additionally, Kierkegaard's pneumatological ideas should provide a contribution to the study of the Spirit's activity within the church, as well as provide a Kierkegaardian perspective of the presence of the charismatic in the church and the world.

Beginning with the theological background of Kierkegaard, including his father's association with the Moravians and the Danish Lutheran church which dominated Kierkegaard's own culture, the focus will then shift to Kierkegaard's mystical experience of 1838. After this, I will attempt to extrapolate any implied pneumatological ideas from Kierkegaard's works including, but not limited to, Works of Love, Christian Discourses, and Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. I will then examine Kierkegaard's explicit references to the Holy Spirit, particularly those found in his prayers, in For Self-Examination/Judge for Yourselves, and The Sickness Unto Death. To conclude, I will offer a Kierkegaardian voice to the discussion of Pentecostal/charismatic pneumatology by bringing him into dialogue with pentecostal theologians Amos Yong and Stephen Land.

Brouwer, Wayne

Wayne Brouwer
Associate Professor
Hope College

Would Kierkegaard Have Written Fear & Trembling Differently Had He Been a Literary Critic?

Fear and Trembling marks the high mark of Kierkegaard's turn toward religious devotion as the ultimate expression of ethical authenticity. Emerging from his recent broken engagement to Regine Olsen, Kierkegaard imagines the psychology that drove Abraham to press toward the sacrifice of Isaac, and finds his own validation of the sacrifice he or anyone can make if it is subsumed under complete devotion to God.

While this makes for great moral drama, is this the purpose behind the Abraham story in Genesis? Might there be other ways to understand the Abraham story within its literary context which would find similar connection with religious identity and moral behaviors, but turn the presuppositions on their head, divesting them of Post-Kantian and Post-Hegelian philosophic constraints?

This paper analyzes the literary structure of the book of Genesis, placing the Story Cycle of Abraham in a larger context of prolegomenal introduction to the Sinai Covenant, and maps out the primary issues that are explored. The outcome confirms Kierkegaard's ultimate sense of the meaning of this passage, but does so without the subjective psychologizing of Abraham's unwritten inner dialogue which has troubled Kierkegaard's interpreters.

Calhoun, David H.

David H. Calhoun
Associate Professor, Philosophy
Gonzaga University

Kierkegaard's Philosophical Anthropology

The theory of the synthetic self in Kierkegaard's Sickness Unto Death is widely acknowledged to be a suggestive and powerful psychological account of the self-representation of human conscious self-awareness. On Kierkegaard's view, the self is a reflectively aware or self-relating dynamic unity of dimensions of openness and fixity, that must represent or "name" itself to itself, in order to orient itself to itself and to the world in which it acts.

But is this theory of conscious self-representation a theory of human nature, or does it imply a theory of human nature, as well? One might plausibly think so. After all, to say that a human is the sort of being that represents itself to itself, that seeks to find a way to characterize itself in the light of its flexibility and openness and the fixity of its past and limitations, is to say that a human is a certain sort of thing with a certain sort of nature. And yet, when we try to fit Kierkegaard into the standard alternatives for philosophical anthropology—Platonic soul idealist, mind-body dualist, materialist, soul-body integrationist, and so forth—no option seems to provide a good fit.

The text of the famously enigmatic passage of Sickness Unto Death encourages, in at least one way, the thought that there is a theory of human nature lurking beneath Kierkegaard's psychological account. As part of explaining the concept of the relational "third as a negative unity," Kierkegaard explicitly refers to the "relation between psychical and the physical" as a minimal relation that is united by self-relation of the self. Does this mean that Kierkegaard acknowledges some basic soul-body dicthotomy that is nevertheless unified by some third entity, the self or spirit?

Kierkegaard's theory is famously associated with at least one anti-theory of human nature, the pour-soi/en-soi theory of Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness. On a charitable reading, Sartre's theory is at the very least an undisclosed homage to Kierkegaard, if not an uncredited borrowing (though Sartre's translator Hazel Barnes noticed the affinity between Kierkegaard's synthetic self and Sartre's). In Sartre's reading, the idea that human consciousness represents itself is at root a theory of freedom, and as such rules out the possibility of a pregiven human nature. While there is a human condition, the condition specified by the problem of free self-definition, the question of what each human individual is can be answered only by free and creative self-representation. Sartre's Kierkegaardian account of consciousness suggests not merely that there is no Kierkegaardian theory of human nature, it implicitly argues that there should not be one.

On the other hand, several points of evidence suggest that we should look for a Kierkegaardian theory of human nature. First, we might insist on the plausible principle already invoked that a theory of psychology presupposes or implies a theory of human nature. Despite Sartre's denials of the Cartesian res cogitans, or characterizations of consciousness as nihilating activity, old Aristotelian concerns that agencies and properties must inhere in a substance are difficult to dismiss. Second, Kierkegaard emphasizes that reflective self-awareness provides the ground for human superiority over animals. While Kierkegaard takes this point to be a psychological fact, he asserts that it provides the basis for conceiving of human being as spirit. This appears to be a comparison of human nature to animal nature. Third, Sartre's clearest departure from Kierkegaard—his Nietzschean-inspired atheism—is closely linked to Sartre's rejection of human nature, as his famous paper-cutter analogy demonstrates. Following Nietzsche against the philosophes and Kant, Sartre argues that there is no human nature because there is no creating God to preconceive it and bring it into existence in individual human beings. Kierkegaard's clear linkage of self and God, including his idea that despair is eradicated only by grounding the self in God, suggests that there is an objective reality at the root of human consciousness—a nature—that reflects the positive will and intention of God.

Cathey, Robert Andrew

Robert Andrew Cathey
Professor of Theology
McCormick Theological Seminary

Learning to Reflect with Christians and Jews in Times of Terror and Occupation: Kierkegaard and Buber

The reception of Kierkegaard's writings by Martin Buber, Emmanuel Levinas, Shmuel Hugo Bergman, Michael Oppenheim, Gillian Rose, the late David Hartman, and other Jewish thinkers provides a vital dialogic place for Christians today to recover Kierkegaard's critical voice for our congregations and societies, and our lives. This paper focuses in particular on Martin Buber's reading of Kierkegaard's category of the "Single One" or the solitary Christian over against others and Buber's reading of Fear and Trembling.

It is hard to underestimate Kierkegaard's impact on Buber who wrote:

The first book by Kierkegaard that I read as a young man was Fear and Trembling. This is built entirely upon the Biblical narrative of the sacrifice of Isaac. I still think of that hour today because it was then that I received the impulse to reflect upon the categories of ethics and religion in their relation to each other (Buber, "The Suspension of Ethics," in Ruth Nanda Anshen, ed., Moral Principles of Action , 223).

Jewish thinkers in the Diaspora have resonated with SK's critique of the difficulty of becoming a faithful disciple in societies with a "Christian" religious majority that marginalizes and stigmatizes others. And some Jewish thinkers in the modern nation-state of Israel have struggled with how to read the story of the testing of Abraham (and Sarah!) in a land where so many young people and children have been slaughtered, maimed or traumatized in the Arab-Israeli wars and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

Our times are marked by new forms anxiety that Kierkegaard's generation could not have imagined:

The growth of new technologies has opened the door to a trans-human future where the sense of individual personhood is transcended in the name of longevity, amelioration of suffering, and the fusion of the self into networks of knowledge and instant global communication. Such transcendence of the self was pre-figured in structuralist systems and anti-humanist art of the twentieth century (Eve Meltzer, Systems We Have Loved University of Chicago Pr., 2013).

In our times a return to reading SK in light of Jewish appropriations and critiques opens the door to a different kind of inter-religious dialogue and partnership between Jews and Christians. Not the dialogue of John Hick's generation in search of the lowest common religious denominator, the so-called Judaeo-Christian tradition, but a conversation about sacred and classic texts, and ways of life that respects the sheer otherness, particularity, and integrity of each tradition. Conversations between Jews and Christians about Kierkegaard and Jewish appropriations of SK's texts holds out the possibility for a new kind of social solidarity, one that welcomes others into friendship and partnership for greater social aims and justice without attempting to convert or reduce the other to an ideal generous version of one's own sense of self or one's own ideology about the ongoing tragic conflicts of our times. This kind of conversation and partnership is desperately lacking in our Christian denominations, so easily prone to be colonized by ideologies of the Left and the Right. It is also lacking in many of our church-related institutions that have been colonized by notions of education as another form of neo-capitalist enterprise in a competitive global market for students, donors, grants, and influence.

Buber's I and Thou (1921) shows the influence of SK on his thinking. As the first translator of this classic wrote,

Certainly, in Buber's work the connection with the "father" of existentialism,…Kierkegaard, is clear and unmistakable; and the content of Buber's experience, with its wide range,—through nature and history, and including the "eternal Thou," the Absolute Person—can offer a corrective to much truncated and emaciated existentialism in our time [Ronald Gregor Smith, Translator's Preface to Second Edition, I and Thou (New York: Scribner's Sons, 1958)].

Finally, this paper will conclude on whether Buber's social ontology offers one way of supplementing some ways of reading SK's anthropology of the religious individual.

Clayton, Brian

Brian Clayton
Associate Professor
Gonzaga University

Walker Percy as "A Thief of Kierkegaard"?

In a passage in a letter to Kenneth Ketner dated February 27, 1989 and well-known by Percy scholars, Walker Percy wrote: "…I am not a student of [C.S.] Peirce. I am a thief of Peirce. I take from him what I want and let the rest go, most of it." Percy characterized this "theft" in terms of his interests: "I am only interested in [C.S. Peirce] insofar as I understand his attack on nominalism and his rehabilitation of Scholastic realism. I am interested in his 'logic' insofar as it can be read as an ontology…." The question I propose to pursue in this paper is, Was Walker Percy also a "thief of Kierkegaard?" Or, put otherwise, To what extent was Percy a "Kierkegaardian"?

Percy's debt to Kierkegaard is well-known. For example in an interview with Jan Nordby Gretlund published in South Carolina Review in 1981, there occurred the following exchange:

Gretlund: To what extent do you consider your first three novels "a gloss on Kierkegaard"?

Percy: That's my own expression. It is an exaggeration, but I wanted to pay due homage to Kierkegaard. Insofar as one thinks in a philosophical frame of reference, when I was writing The Moviegoer, also The Last Gentleman, and maybe also Love in the Ruins, I was thinking in terms of the three spheres of existence. It is a very convenient frame of reference, particularly when you are writing a novel of quest, pilgrimage, or search about a young man "on life's way," as Kierkegaard would say, to think of him going through the aesthetic stage, the ethical stage, and then the religious. Although most of the novels are about the aesthetic stage.

Percy's debt to Kierkegaard is evident throughout his writings. For instance, his books and essays frequently begin with an epigraph from Kierkegaard. He repeatedly uses Kierkegaardian ideas; not just the three spheres but also such notions as rotation, repetition, and knowledge sub specie aeterni.

Coe, David Lawrence

David Lawrence Coe
Associate Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church

Law and Gospel, Distinction and Dialectic: Walther, Kierkegaard, and the Rich Young Ruler

In 2011 and 2013, two Lutheran giants, Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther and Søren Kierkegaard, celebrated their 200th birthdays, respectively. Both giants agonized over Luther's doctrine of Law and Gospel for the preaching task. After immigrating to America from Saxony and founding the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, C. F. W. Walther's Law and Gospel homiletic made him, to this day, American Lutheranism's most influential preacher. Although Walther and Kierkegaard were from the same century, their distinct Law & Gospel homiletic techniques were directed toward two distinct audiences. Walther propounded a *distinction* of Law and Gospel to a Pelagian American Frontier. Kierkegaard propounded a *dialectic* of Law and Gospel to an Antinomian Danish Lutheranism. After running their Law and Gospel homiletic techniques through the ringer of the Rich Young Ruler Synoptic Gospel pericopes, it will be shown that, given our Antinomian audience, Kierkegaard's dialectic of Law and Gospel makes him a Christian preacher for our time.

Colton, Randall Glenn

Randall Glenn Colton
Professor of Philosophy
Cardinal Glennon College of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

Narrative and the Moment in Three Kierkegaardian Pseudonyms

In After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre presented arguments for the significance of narrative in moral reflection that have proved compelling for many readers. Not least among these are the many Kierkegaard readers who have found in MacIntyre's narrative approach a resource for understanding Kierkegaard more deeply and defending him against various common objections, some of them voiced most prominently by MacIntyre himself. In recent years, this commitment to the moral significance of narrative, shared by MacIntyreans and many Kierkegaardians alike, has been challenged on a number of fronts. Critics have complained that the moral use of narrative reflection is hubristic, oversimplifying, self-deceptive, trivial, and fatally confused about the relation between narrative and self-identity. They argue that a commitment to the significance of narrative for ethics requires one to force narrative into a foundational and fundamental role that cannot be sustained without serious distortion in moral self-understanding and action.

In my view, narrativist Kierkegaardians are right to find MacIntyrean themes in Kierkegaard's writings and, further, correct in their judgment that Kierkegaard escapes the common criticisms of the anti-narrativists. But that does not mean that they must give narrative the last word in ethics; though rejecting anti-narrativist criticisms, they can affirm limits to narrative. Kierkegaard, for example, sometimes uses narrative reflection to critique the romantic pursuit of the ecstatic moment in the aesthetic life-view he has his ethical pseudonyms confront, anticipating various aspects of the narrativist case. Yet his texts also insist on the limits of narrative in the face of that moment which is the fullness of time, thus suggesting a skepticism about the ultimacy of narrative.

This paper, then, will argue that Kierkegaard's approach to the promise and limits of narrative for moral reflection offers some valuable insights the contemporary debate would do well to consider. In particular, contemporary participants in the debate can learn from Kierkegaard's appeal to fundamental Christian truths to situate the question in a way more productive of fruitful resolution.

The paper will proceed by focusing on the dialectic between narrative and the moment as found in three Kierkegaardian pseudonyms, along with a brief description of the current debate and a glance at examples of the moment that is the fullness of time in the practices of the Christian life. A brief overview of the central themes follows.

In Either/Or, Kierkegaard's pseudonym Judge William develops critiques of the romantic search for the ecstatic moment that anticipate central arguments of the narrativist camp. But Judge William turns out not to be an unproblematic friend of narrative's significance for ethics. He finally comes to suggest that narrative can play little role in moral reflection, since central moral phenomena resist the abridgment and selection that are part of telling a tale. His attempt to defend the ethical life in narrative terms culminates in the view that it can be lived but not understood.

But two others of Kierkegaard's works draw attention to a different kind of moment, not the romantic moment criticized by Judge William but the moment that is the fullness of time, in which the temporal and the eternal meet. In The Concept of Anxiety and The Philosophical Fragments, Vigilius Haufniensus and Johannes Climacus, respectively, insist that such a moment is the source of meaning for the larger narrative to which it belongsand which it, at the same time, transcends. Moral reflection and self-understanding gain their meaning in the light of this eternal moment. From this point of view, the narrativists, including Judge William in his narrativist mode, are right to insist on the unsatisfactory nature of the romantic moment, abstracted from a larger narrative that can give it intelligibility. But Haufniensis and Climacus also indicate that the narrative itself cannot finally sustain its own meaning, apart from its relation to a moment which both belongs to it and transcends it. Furthermore, such a moment is not to be found in ecstatic rapture but in the ordinary practices of the Christian life Kierkegaard's writings are meant to encourage, such as sacraments, promises, joy, and conscience, as Kierkegaard's own descriptions of the latter two can affirm.

Conway, Daniel

Dan Conway
Professor of Philosophy
Texas A&M University

"A Cherub with a Flaming Sword": Intimations of Original Sin in Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling

The "Preliminary Expectoration," which serves as a preamble to the three Problemata, is best known for introducing Kierkegaard's readers to the two most famous and influential figures to appear in Fear and Trembling: the knights, respectively, of infinite resignation and faith. If we attend to the genesis of these knights in the text of Fear of Trembling, however, we discover that they are introduced to us in a particular order of appearance, which, when considered in detail, positions us to infer their common origin in a third, unnamed knight, who typically eludes notice and commentary. This third knight, whom I call the knight of morality, is exemplified—albeit unwittingly—by none other than Johannes de Silentio, the pseudonymous author of Fear and Trembling.

In order to develop this interpretation, I will focus on a relatively obscure anecdote in the "Preliminary Expectoration," wherein Johannes conjures a generic preacher, who inadvertently inspires a sleepless congregant to follow in the extra-ethical footsteps of Abraham. Although Johannes treats this anecdote as a comic interlude, instructive of how not to speak in praise of Abraham, his introduction of the preacher also stages his initial, albeit failed, encounter with his dark twin, the elusive Doppelgänger whom he has endeavored thus far both to meet and to avoid. Like the mild-mannered preacher, I submit, Johannes is a (disguised) knight of morality, sworn to defend the sanctity of the moral law and the primacy of the ethical sphere. Like the preacher, moreover, Johannes is unaware of his dual status and unfamiliar with his knightly duties.

In developing my interpretation of Johannes as a knight of morality, I am particularly concerned to elaborate on his recourse to a haunting Biblical image—namely, the "cherub with a flaming sword" (Gen. 3:24). Johannes summons this image to explain the preacher's imagined display of wrathful authority in confronting the sleepless congregant. Apparently, that is, the preacher sees this congregant as representative of humankind in its post-Edenic condition of original sin. (This identification is perhaps to be expected, for sleeplessness is said to be a symptom of anxiety, which Kierkegaard famously associates with the condition of original sin.) As such, this image reminds us not only of our freedom to choose for ourselves, but also of the anxiety that attends—and occasionally bedevils—our choices. A "flaming sword" would not be needed, after all, if the preacher's congregants—or, at least, the most agitated and alive among them—were not free to choose for themselves (and positively disposed to do so).

This allusion to original sin also adverts to a likelihood that Johannes is understandably reluctant to acknowledge: When the knight of morality responds, as he must, to a sinner whose freedom has led him astray, he is likely to do so in kind, thereby expressing his own besetting anxiety. In the course of responding to a threat, that is, the knight of morality is likely to reproduce—and perhaps amplify—the violence and injustice that are implicit in the particular threat he seeks to address. Indeed, although the self-satisfied preacher imagines himself as a divinely appointed sentinel, he is no angel. He too is burdened by the anxiety and original sin that motivate the sinner whom he confronts. In short, he too is prone to poor decisions and extra-ethical transgressions, even as he performs his duties as a knight of morality. Hence the danger encoded in the preacher's preferred image of himself: When wielded by mere mortals, even if they are knights of morality, the cherub's "flaming sword" is likely to become an offensive weapon of destruction, its smiting thrusts both fully justified and disturbingly unjust.

Finally, Johannes's recourse to this image reveals far more about him than he is prepared to admit. In particular, we learn, he too is beset by anxiety and the poor choices that anxiety typically produces. Indeed, the comic resolution he envisions for the preacher in Fear and Trembling is no more likely an outcome in his own case than it is in the case of the preacher. As we see at the end of Problema III, in fact, Johannes too resorts to "justifiable" violence as he endeavors to take the measure of Abraham. In the end, that is, he too converts his "flaming sword" into an offensive weapon of destruction.

Here, as elsewhere, Kierkegaard confirms that the inwardness that he recommends will be far more difficult to attain than we are presently able to imagine. This is why we will be so determined, like Johannes, to affirm our own efforts in this respect—whatever they may be or involve—as sufficient (or nearly so). After all, we may reason, our progress thus far has been painful, and "going further" may strike us as both unnecessary and unthinkably arduous. Yet, Kierkegaard would caution, we have scarcely plotted the journey that Abraham is celebrated—rightly or wrongly—for having completed. As Fear and Trembling draws to a close, it would seem, our fear and trembling have only just begun.

Davies, Victoria Louise

Victoria Louise Davies
D.Phil. Candidate
University of Oxford

Heidegger's "Indirect Communication"? Heidegger's Appropriation of Kierkegaard's Method in Contributions to Philosophy

Grounded in the contemporary discussion regarding Heidegger's engagement with Kierkegaard, and my own interest in this as it continues into his later work, I propose a paper that—arising from the confluence of theology, continental philosophy and phenomenological hermeneutics—looks to what I will argue is an example Kierkegaard's legacy as taken up by Heidegger. This relates to the conference theme insofar as it exhibits the Kierkegaard's use of indirect communication as a possibility for coming to an appropriate comportment toward 'the truth'. This will exhibit continuing relevance of Kierkegaard's thought, especially his method, in our contemporary age.

Previous discussions of Heidegger's use of seemingly Kierkegaardian method will be brought to bear on the discussion in order to sufficiently orient the debate. I will briefly mention John D. Caputo's Radical Hermeneutics (where he discusses Heidegger's use of performative repetition in the spiral structure of Being and Time) and Stephen Mulhall's Inheritance and Originality (where he discusses the shared importance in Heidegger and Kierkegaard of the questioning essential to a re-evaluation of the relation between the method or form and content of 'philosophical' works, reconsidering the demands that such writing places on its readers, and rethinking the nature of philosophy itself).

This will provide a basis for an account of Kierkegaard's method with regard to indirect communication and Socratic maieutic pedagogy, touching on his use of pseudonyms. I will pay special attention to his The Point of View for my Work as an Author. This will take a cue from previous Kierkegaard scholarship on these matters, particularly George Pattison's argument, in his Kierkegaard's Upbuilding Discourses, that the authorship may be read as a whole with regard to Kierkegaard's upbuilding discourses; the works of his right hand, taken by the world's left. Nonetheless, and significantly for this paper, Pattison does not consider these discourses as Kierkegaard's direct communication, but rather there are ways in which these too are indirect (p. 2-3). Pattison reads Kierkegaard's multiple voices as a unity through Bakhtin's principle of polyphony.

Incorporated into the discussion of this, I will offer a brief consideration of Joseph Westfall's The Kierkegaardian Author. Westfall argues even the veronym 'S. Kierkegaard' cannot be accepted as an authorial voice in the authorship, precisely because he has interjected and undermined his own position as the author of the authors. Again, the authorship is seen as a collection of voices, which as a performance are constantly and ironically undermining the text and the author, in order to present the reader with possibilities for interpretation, which must allow for transcending the text. Westfall tells us that 'without the possibility of a repetition in the subjective reader—…appropriation—reading is reducible to the author's explanation in the preface' (p.188).

Moving on to Heidegger's 'indirect communication', I will work toward describing his arguably Kierkegaardian method. This will involve a reading of Contributions to Philosophy which looks to the ways in which Heidegger uses indirection and multiple voices, with pathos and intensity, resulting in a fugue, a polyphony, which hints toward an appropriate comportment toward beyng. This comportment is to be undertaken with humility, patience and openness to possibility of thinking the as-yet-unthinkable essence of beyng. This is thinking which points away from philosophy, and from itself, in a manner that I will argue is quite Kierkegaardian.

I will discuss this in conversation with Richard Polt's The Emergency of Being. Polt argues that Heidegger is attempting to (not) say the unsayable, employing techniques and voices that touch on treatise, a history of philosophy, a cultural critique, prophecy, and poetry (p. 2-4). Polt argues for a reading of Contributions that is attentive to these various voices, taking Heidegger's belief that interpretation means working out a projected possibility seriously. This may encourage a position from which the reader can approach the text that 'should illuminate the text, but the text, in turn, should be allowed to transform that standpoint' (p. 4). I argue that this progressively illuminating struggle with the text, from which a number of different voices arise to constantly challenge the reader to reassess both the text and themselves, and which refrains from directly communicating a static metaphysical standpoint, may turn out to be an appropriation of Kierkegaardian indirect communication by Heidegger.

Davis, Trent

Trent Davis
Assistant Professor
St.Mary's University College

Kierkegaard, Higher Education, and the Search for Meaning in an Information Age

Surely it has become somewhat of a cliché to point out that we live in a hyper-paced computer age where technological advances provide unparalleled access to vast amounts of information. But just as surely it is becoming all too apparent that the risk to higher education in such an age is that it becomes obsessed with managing the flow of this information and increasingly ignores the wisdom that gives it shape and purpose. Frequently educators express this worry by saying that our colleges and universities are focusing more and more on trivialities and less and less on life's meaning. From among the wheel-barrow full of relatively recent books that offer some version of this claim, a splendidly clear example is Education's End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life, by Anthony T. Kronman. Formerly Dean of the Law School at Yale University, and therefore someone whose views on higher education merit a fair hearing, Kronman bemoans the hectic and superficial tendencies of higher education today and reminds us that fundamentally "Our lives are the most precious resource we possess, and the question of how to spend them is the most important question we face."

The starting point that animates this conference is whether Søren Kierkegaard's writings have anything to contribute to our 21st century context. I want to argue that his work provides us with an existential perspective on education that helps us better understand why indeed are lives are "precious," and that aiding students in the struggle to live well should forever remain a fundamental aim of higher education, particularly in Christian colleges and universities.

In Fear and Trembling Kierkegaard asks "What is education?", and in the very next line he answers "I should suppose that education was the curriculum one had to run through in order to catch up with oneself, and he who will not pass through this curriculum is helped very little by the fact that he was born in the most enlightened age." This is a remarkably vivid sentence that I feel describes our contemporary educational situation quite well. Kierkegaard starts from the premise that we have "fallen behind" ourselves and that no matter how "enlightened" the age may appear on the surface, in the end what matters most in education is how it helps students to sort out their lives.

More specifically, I will draw upon two inter-related Kierkegaardian themes to describe how I think education can help us "catch up" with ourselves in this information age. First, I want to highlight the way that Kierkegaard describes modern "anxiety" and how it can be accurately applied to the existential predicament of our culture today. Second, I want to then draw attention to Kierkegaard's three modes of existence and why striving for the "religious" still matters so much if we want to live "authentic" lives.

In his Journals Kierkegaard claims that "the most tremendous thing" is "choice, freedom," but he immediately adds "If you want to rescue and keep it, there is only one way—in the very same second unconditionally in full attachment give it back to God and yourself along with it." Given the collective problems we face today, what topic is more vital than how education can and should contribute to helping our students give their lives back to God?

Denischik, Marina

Marina Denischik
Teaching Fellow/Ph.D. Student
Boston College

Tyrant: A Paradigm of the Inhuman Understood through Kiekregaard's Analysis of Despair

Drawing on Søren Kierkegaard's analyses of despair offered in his work entitled The Sickness Unto Death, this paper examines the state of despair of a tyrannical character. The goal of the essay is to establish whether a tyrant can be relegated to one form of despair, which Kierkegaard presents, or whether a tyrant cannot be neatly ascribed to any single category. Another question answered in this paper is whether a tyrant's despair can be seen as a separate, malignant case of what Kierkegaard interchangeably refers to as despair and sickness. The essay makes the case that Sophocle's Oedipus Tyrannus portrays a paradigmatic tyrant. The character of Oedipus is analyzed through Kierkegaard's lens of the forms of despair as well as with the help of Seth Benardete's ingenious treatment of Sophocles' play, which appears in the collection of Benardete's essays, entitled The Argument of the Action. The analysis of the tyrannical nature, which this paper undertakes, shows the junctures that mark the subtle, but very important modifications in one's being and the way in which these changes entrap a person in spiritual depravity.

Kierkegaard understands human beings as beings of spirit.1 Spirit, says Kierkegaard, allows for the "possibility of [a] . . . sickness [which] is man's superiority over the animal."2 Sickness, which takes over the beings of spirit alone, is inescapable. It is inseparablefrom what Kierkegaard takes to be the meaning of being human. To be human, then, is to be in a shadow of imminent danger of falling prey to the sickness, which Kierkegaard calls "despair."3 If the sickness is definitive of being human, then not to confront the danger of despair is to fall short of one's humanity.

Because of the torments that give a tyrant a foretaste of the extent to which his spirit has been deformed, the echo of a tyrant's withered and twisted spirit must be forever shut out. A tyrant must end "surrounded by silence and darkness."4 The removal of the tyrannical self from the world and a renewed attempt at an escape from himself is set into motion by the pain of the proximity to the self. Benardete says of Oedipus, who has finally heard his own story, that [i]f there had been some way to stop his ears…he would not have held back from closing off his body…He would no longer hear, as he no longer sees, his crimes. He would deprive himself of sense, as he was once deprived of motion. He would cut off the knowing."5 Having been blind to himself as a transgressor, a tyrant cannot bear to see the depravity that is his self when the transgression has been uncovered and when the tyrant is made to face the crimes that are his own. What in Kierkegaard's analysis transpires as a form of a more spiritual despair, when brought to bear on the figure of the tyrant, comes to the fore as an incurable sickness of the spirit. The tyrant is the one who most needs salvation from his sickness. Yet, he is the one who shall not be cured. Tyrant is barred access to the "formula that describes the state of the self when despair is completely rooted out [and]…the self rests transparently in the power that established it" , because the tyrant negates this power entirely.

  1. Kierkegaard, S., The Sickness Unto Death, Hong, H. E., & Hong, V. H., W., trans. (1980, New Jersey: Princeton University Press), pp. 13 - 14
  2. The Sickness, p. 15
  3. Ibid.
  4. The Argument, p. 80
  5. The Argument, p. 80
  6. The Sickness, p. 14

Diener, David

David Diener
Adjunct Philosophy Professor / Head of Upper Schools
Taylor University / Covenant Classical School

A Critique of Modernity: Kierkegaard on the Individual, Equality, and the Modern Conception of Social and Political Authority

Throughout his career Kierkegaard made recurrent forays into the realm of social and political philosophy, but in the years of the second authorship these themes came more to the fore. These were years of great social and political change in Demark, and Kierkegaard was very attuned to the theoretical sources and implications of these transformations. Attempting to interpret Kierkegaard's critique of the modern conception of social and political authority, however, is a difficult and complex task that has given rise to a wide spectrum of interpretations. While some interpret his response as paradigmatically conservative, others argue that it reveals his acceptance of the basic premises of classical liberalism. In this paper I offer an interpretation of Kierkegaard's critique of the modern conception of social and political authority by examining two foundational issues upon which that critique is based: the primacy of the individual and the nature of true equality.

Foundational to Kierkegaard's understanding of social and political authority is the importance he assigns to the individual vis-à-vis "the crowd." The category of the single individual is of utmost importance, thinks Kierkegaard, and he takes it to be essential for proper engagement with the religious. Because truth can be both communicated and received only by the single individual, it therefore cannot originate from the crowd. The great fallacy which by Kierkegaard's judgment has "confused everything" in modern society is that the crowd is regarded as an authority in matters of truth.

A second foundational issue to Kierkegaard's understanding of social and political authority is the nature of dissimilarity and equality. Equality is impossible within the temporal realm, thinks Kierkegaard, for every human individual is necessarily dissimilar from other individuals. Social and political movements that attempt to achieve equality are therefore bound to fail, for the realization of their goal is a de facto impossibility.

Having examined Kierkegaard's understanding of these two foundational issues, I use them as a lens through which to analyze his critique of the modern conception of social and political authority. I argue that for Kierkegaard, the issues of the individual and equality on which his critique is based are religious issues with important religious ramifications. What concerns him about democratic voting and society's quest for equality is not that these are faulty as social or political ideals. Rather his critique of these phenomena is that they lead to religious insubordination against the authority of God.

The supposed elevation of the individual's political authority through democratic voting leads to religious insubordination, according to Kierkegaard, because it makes truth, which is absolute, relative to and contingent upon the opinion of the crowd. The result of this is that the religious loses its other-worldly nature and is instead viewed in purely secular terms. Insubordination to the religious similarly is brought about by the pursuit of worldly equality, according to Kierkegaard, since the attempt to free people from subjugation to earthly authorities leads to a rejection of people's subjugation to the authority of God. Like democratic voting, the pursuit of social and political equality thus results in the secularization of the religious realm in that people do not accept the absolute nature of the relationship between God and every individual. The pursuit of worldly equality is furthermore an act of insubordination against God in that the worldly realm, by claiming the power to achieve equality, impinges on the unique ability of the religious to bring such equality about. Modern society's pursuit of equality is therefore insubordination to God, for by attempting to accomplish something that can be provided only by God it is in effect attempting to take the place of God.

Kierkegaard's critique of the modern conception of social and political authority is therefore based not on the philosophical merits of the conception itself but rather on the religious implications that he thinks arise from democratic voting and the quest for external equality. He sees in the emergence of the modern state not merely political transformation but a religious one as well in which the authority of God is insubordinately defied and the secular order is deified in his place. While the modern conception of social and political authority with its acceptance of democratic voting and the pursuit of social equality is to be rejected, this is not because it is itself philosophically objectionable. Rather it is because it is a paltry and futile attempt to fabricate the shadow of a much greater reality that can be realized only by the proper subordination of individuals to the authority of God.

Dobre, Catalina Elena

Catalina Elena Dobre
Universidad Anahuac Mexico Norte

S. Kierkegaard and the Reconstruction of Philosophy through Subjective Doubt and Repetition in De omnibus dubitandum est

The objective of this paper is to analyze how Kierkegaard criticizes the modern philosophy based in the method of the objective doubt. That is why we will argue that Kierkegaard tries to reconstruct the meaning of philosophy through the idea of the subjective doubt and the idea of repetition as the fundamental concept of the new philosophy, as he argues. Kierkegaard does not accept the abstract doubt as the absolute beginning of philosophy because the doubt is not limited to a logical and universal process of thinking; but it is related with the individual consciousness and implies contradiction, anxiety and faith. The doubt is not the "universal doubt" because it is related with the single person and requires an individual consciousness. I will argue this idea related with Kierkegaard's pseudonym writing Johannes Climacus and De Omnibus Dubitandum Est, where Kierkegaard let us understand that cannot be an objective doubt because the individual consciousness is a relational one, between ideality and reality, then doubt is a subjective one, because it appears always in this contradiction and the repetition is the movement through the doubt that aniquilates it, allowing the consciousness to reduplicate itself in the process of thinking. Then for Kierkegaard doubt is an existential way of being because it is the manifestation of the subjective consciousness and to philosophize is impossible without a subjective thinker and a subjective doubt.

Evans, Jan E.

Jan E. Evans
Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director
Baylor University

A Kierkegaardian Understanding of Despair and Miguel de Unamuno's San Manuel Bueno, mártir

Kierkegaard entered into the Spanish world through the life and work of Miguel de Unamuno. In my first book, Unamuno and Kierkegaard: Pathways to Selfhood in Fiction, I established a link between Kierkegaard's Sickness Unto Death and one of Unamuno's protagonists, Joaquín, of Abel Sánchez. I argued that Joaquín can be considered close to the Kierkegaardian stage of religiousness because of the depth of his despair. Among the categories that are explored are the despair of weakness and the despair of defiance. One form that the latter can take is "inclosing reserve," Indesluttethed, a kind of demonic spirituality in which the individual is intensely self-conscious but "shut up" within himself.

I propose to return to the many inter-textualities between the Sickness Unto Death and another of Unamuno's protagonists, Don Manuel of San Manuel Bueno, mártir (Saint Manuel the Good, Martyr), who is the unbelieving priest of a small, backward Spanish village. He is revered by all of the villagers for his dedication to his priestly duties, but when the congregation stands to recite the creed, Don Manuel's voice falls silent when it comes to the words, "And I believe in the resurrection and the life to come." Don Manuel's unbelief is hidden to all of the villagers save Lázaro, an atheist with progressive tendencies whom Don Manuel "converts" to his point of view, to do good in the world and to allow the congregants to live in their illusions. Eventually Lázaro's sister, Angela, the narrator of the story, is also informed of Don Manuel's unbelief. Why is his despair hidden from everyone except these two? I will illuminate Don Manuel's inner turmoil with Kierkegaardian categories of despair and will show how his "inclosing reserve," this extreme sort of demonic spiritually, would have led him to suicide (to which he was tempted) were it not for his relationship with Lázaro and his sister.

Fehir, Aaron A.

Aaron A. Fehir
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Saint Leo University

Subjectivity and Conscience: A Kierkegaardian Resolution to the Problem of the Criterion

A classic problem in epistemology, the problem of the criterion, contends that in order for any belief to be justified we need to establish a criterion of truth. But in order to validate the criterion, we either need a second criterion, and a third, ad infinitum, or we can claim that the criterion shows itself to be true, but then we are trapped in epistemic circularity. The progenitors of this problem, the ancient Pyrrhonians, opted for skepticism, concluding that, ultimately, no beliefs are justified.

At one level, I am sympathetic with the skeptical conclusion, so long as it remains limited to "ultimate" justification. But I am also sympathetic to "common sense" solutions offered by contemporary Reformed epistemologists. I propose that a good Kierkegaardian way of mediating these perspectives is to distinguish divine knowledge, for which "existence itself is a system" (CUP 118), and human knowledge, through which "we see in a mirror, dimly… know only in part" (I Corinthians 13:12), making the role of subjectivity and a "leap" of faith inescapable. Where rationality runs out we must make an inward "leap"—not a blind leap, but an eyes-wide-open leap. For Kierkegaardian hermeneutics of appropriation, truth is subjectivity; the buck stops here. This sense of inwardness and subjectivity is all but ignored by "externalist" Reformed epistemologists.

But if truth is subjectivity, what's to stop me from believing whatever I want? The threat of subjectivism lurks here. If we look to immediate desires and judgments when deciding what to believe, or even if we rely on conscience, we take a risk. We will likely find ourselves believing things not because they are true or conform to evidence, but because they are self-serving, easy to swallow, or conform to the thinking of cherished traditions. If truth is subjectivity, there are no guarantees. Or worse, anything goes; all is "free and imaginative play."

However, if we take the Kierkegaardian approach seriously, and not in superficial or piecemeal fashion, then we must also recognize another Kierkegaardian truth that tempers and regulates the truth of inwardness. That "truth is subjectivity" is only a first-level; it is the truth of "Religiousness A." But as we venture inward, we come upon "Religiousness B," which acknowledges that "subjectivity is untruth" (CUP 207). In other words, hermeneutics of appropriation is tempered by hermeneutics of suspicion. While conscience in its immediate state leads astray, true conscience is anguished conscience and consciousness of sin. Real inwardness is looking at myself with eyes wide open, examining every motive with constant regard of myself as "a suspicious character" (FSE 44).

But cannot a person's conscience be so seared and dead that listening to conscience provides no good standard at all? Surely conscience can be wrong and is not always a good guide for action. Accordingly, conscience is no real guard against subjectivism. The things that need to be decided are too weighty, not matters that should be left up to arbitrary caprices of individual conscience. We need a firm rule or principle. Or, as Hegel would have it, conscience as the absolute authority is dangerous and arbitrary; it is more prudent to follow "universal" rules and "objective" standards of the ethical community (sittlichkeit). It is simply too risky to obey voices in your head when almost everyone else points another direction. It would be sheer hubris to place the conscience of a single individual higher than the collective.

No good Kierkegaardian can take this objection lightly. Sin is indeed a real impediment. The objector is no doubt right; relying on conscience is a dangerous game. But in the end conscience is "the only voice" (UDVS 128) and we must, with fear and trembling, follow it. Of course we would much prefer a formula, a principle, an ineffable tablet, a tradition. But all that must ultimately buckle to conscience. After all, who but I could decide which principle I live by or what earthly authority mediates God's voice for me? As it stands, each individual is stuck uncomfortably equidistant between comfortable objectivism and do-whatever-I-want subjectivism. Where we are tempted to rely upon an easy rule or tradition, we must recall that "truth is subjectivity." Where "truth is subjectivity" tends to self-certainty and self-reliance, conscience demands recollection of the dictum that "subjectivity is untruth." Of course, we would like all this to be neater, but in the words of E.E. Cummings: "life's not a paragraph."

Floyd, Gregory

Gregory Floyd
Doctoral student, philosophy
Boston College

Original Time Consciousness: A Reconstruction of Kierkegaard's Philosophy of Time

Heidegger is perhaps most famous for his temporal analytic of Dasein. In Being and Time one discovers temporality to be the deep, hidden structure of Dasein and its world. Thereupon emerges a particular conception of human being as an ek-static res temporalis: Dasein is its possibility. Heidegger is certainly not the first to grapple with human finitude and the singularly opaque questions of time. Indeed, his particular genius is perhaps to have taken the temporal researches of his predecessor and mentor Edmund Husserl and to have "redirected" the phenomenological gaze from the temporal constitution of objects, to that of the self. Indispensible for Husserlian phenomenology is its epoche. It is here in the philosophical reduction that one discerns the intentional structures of consciousness, they manner in which they constitutes objects, and the ultimate ground of both in internal time consciousness. Thus, for Husserl too, and perhaps originally, time is the horizon of being. Heidegger, however, contended that the ego at the center of the reduction was, precisely as temporal, always already a being in the world. Commenting on the difference between them G. R. Ricci noted that, "Husserl found an absolute continuity in the flow of temporal consciousness which explained the continuity we perceive in experience. Heidegger would discover a similar temporal continuity but, in contrast to his mentor, the unity was synonymous with existence itself."1 Heidegger was to deconstruct the Husserlian founding-founded relationship between subject and objects and claim that the temporal continuity of Dasein was the structure of existence itself. As such, the privileged temporal category of consciousness was not the reductive present of the epoche, but that of future possibility.

However, there is a second less proximate source animating the investigation of Being and Time. That is none other than Søren Kierkegaard2. Best known for his characterization of anxiety3, what has been less remarked is the extent to which that anxiety is a function of time, not only and not primarily in the face of future possibility, but first and foremost in the face of originary time, understood as the original alterity prior to the event of positional self-consciousness. As both implication and illustration of this founding—though itself unfounded—rift follow the brilliant characters and their volatile and ineffectual self-reflection, as well as the dialectical style—volatile and uncertain itself and in its own way deprived of an end because deprived of an origin.

Kierkegaard's reflections on time, though undeniably recurrent in his works4, are rarely, if ever, thematized. And yet, what we might here anticipatively refer to as his "philosophy of time," is indispensable for understanding his problematization of human subjectivity and human freedom. The present investigation, drawing on the recent work of David Kangas, aims to illuminate that account of time, first by investigating the conflicting definitions of human being in The Concept of Anxiety5 and the peculiar account of homo temporalis that results. Secondly, we will then examine how this resolution, through the category of the moment, leads to Kierkegaard's account of what Kangas calls "originary time" and its challenge to the project of German Idealism.

Kierkegaard's elucidation of human temporality proceeds by way of elliptical or self-contained reflections, rather then sustained argumentation, and is concentrated on a set of existential phenomena. However, when taken together these independent researches constitute a profound and comprehensive mediation on time and subjectivity. For Kierkegaard, phenomena such as themoment, repetition, the ordeal, and, of course, anxiety reveal the extent to which the nature of consciousness and its relation to its own origin is at stake in such an investigation. We have known since Kant, if not since Augustine that self-consciousness is dependent on time-consciousness. Kierkegaard, in rethinking the time-consciousness, provides us with new insights in thinking about the subject of which we are self-conscious.


  1. For a fuller account of Husserl's phenomenology of time and its relation to his most promising students see G.R. Ricci's "Husserl's assistants: Phenomenology Reconstituted" in History of European Ideas 36 (2010) 419-426; p.424
  2. All references to primary texts by Kierkegaard will be to the collected works editions eds. Hong and citied by their standard abbreviations: Fear and Trembling and Repetition (FTR); Concept of Anxiety (CA); Philosophical Fragments (PF); Sickness Unto Death (SUD)
  3. One notes this influence not only on the thematic level, but on the methodological level as well. Kierkegaard's method in many of his works is one of "psychological exposition". This method, described as a "mood" of "persistent observation", stands in contrast to the transcendental critique of consciousness characteristic of idealism and also to the reduction as performed by Husserl.
  4. Here we will be limiting ourselves to his earlier pseudonymous works. David Kangas (2007) makes the observation that these in particular constitute Kierkegaard's early preoccupation with the account of representational time promoted in German idealism to the occlusion of originary time and the givenness of consciousness.
  5. CA, 43

Francis, Grant David

Grant David Francis
Graduate Assistant (Ph.D. student)
Baylor University

Christo-logic: Sin and Incarnation in the Thought of Kierkegaard contra Hegel

Søren Kierkegaard has always elicited a certain amount of anxiety among Christians, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark in his own day to the disestablished American churches of the present day. Considered the father of existentialism, Kierkegaard's influence on 20th century philosophers such as Heidegger, Sartre, and Derrida has made his ostensibly Christian project look suspicious to many theologians leery of continental philosophy. On the other hand, many contemporary philosophers dismiss Kierkegaard's philosophical work because of his unabashed religious commitments. Furthermore, Kierkegaard has frequently been accused of fideism and irrationalism, causing philosophers and theologians alike to disassociate themselves from this controversial figure in order to maintain intellectual credibility.

Of perennial concern in this debate is Kierkegaard's treatment of the Incarnation, described by his pseudonym Johannes Climacus as "the absolute paradox." Much recent work has been done by Rae, Evans, and others to show that Kierkegaard's interpretation is not logically incoherent, but only appears so against the Hegelian backdrop of speculative philosophy that dominated Danish intellectual culture in the mid-nineteenth century, in which the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation was declared to be not only rational, but inevitable. Building on this defense by drawing on resources from theology, philosophy, psychology, and ethics, I will demonstrate that, on the contrary, it is not the Incarnation, but sin that is fundamentally irrational for Kierkegaard, and it is because of the noetic effects of sin that the Incarnation necessarily seems not merely paradoxical, but completely absurd.

After providing an initial sketch of the progress that has been made in explaining the historical and philosophical context of Kierkegaard's idiosyncratic and anti-Hegelian form of reasoning, this paper will argue that it is Kierkegaard's understanding of sin that truly distinguishes him from Hegel, that this difference is prior and foundational to all other differences, and that it is the anti-logic of sin that undergirds Kierkegaard's logic of Incarnation. It is this anti-logic that creates the "infinite qualitative difference" between God and man—a difference that cannot be sublated (aufgehoben), but is nonetheless a source of negative knowledge about the human condition and its divine solution. That condition is one of absolute freedom, and thus absolute guilt.

Following this philosophical narration of sin's irrationality, the paper will explain how God's historical response in the Incarnation is logically as well as theologically predicated upon the doctrine of the Fall, yet remains an unpredictable and free exercise of divine agency. For Kierkegaard, unlike Hegel, sin is not a matter of Socratic ignorance or psychological immaturity, but a willful and defiant unknowing. The universality of this irrationalism prevents any human from comprehending how redemption could possibly be mediated through the God-man.

Yet this incomprehensible individual demands individual imitation. Therefore, drawing on The Concept of Anxiety as well as the Climacus literature (and arguing for a continuity in authorial perspective among the works), this paper will conclude with a Kierkegaardian account of how a sinner, recognizing and assuming personal responsibility for guilt, can engage in imitatio Christi. This spiritual and ethical dialectic, implicit to Kierkegaard's radical understanding of the Incarnation, will be presented in contrast to Hegel's developmental version, especially as it appears in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion.

Hegel and Kierkegaard have both been hailed as Christian thinkers for our time, but their irreconcilable views on the nature of sin produce Christologies that are also irreconcilable. While Hegel's Incarnation is eminently rational, Kierkegaard's is immanently irrational, requiring a transcendent rationality whose epistemological and existential precondition is faith. The obscurity of sin becomes, apophatically rather than paradoxically, the only lens through which the Incarnation can be clearly seen. Recognizing this essential difference regarding sin and its remedy will not only illuminate Kierkegaard's complex relationship to Hegel and make better sense of his statements about the Incarnation; it will also reveal both the strengths and the inadequacies of our own accounts of sin in a world where human evil is a self-evident and oppressive reality.

Garcia Pavon, Rafael

Rafael Garcia Pavon
Universidad Anahuac Mexico

Contemporaneity as the Eternal Movement of Love. Kierkegaard's Proposal for Times of Diversity

This paper presents how the idea of contemporaneity, in Kierkegaard's thought is relevant to an understanding of meaning between individuals as personal human beings in the actual social conditions of moral pluralism, without falling into relativistic or fundamentalist ways of thought of some social groups and worldviews; neither into the attitudes of indifference or sectarianism, but rather transforming the relationships into a community of love. The category of contemporaneity allows us to understand how each human being becomes itself as a task and response to the unique and personal call of becoming effectively actual in faith and love; and at the same time, how each other human being could be a repetition of himself. Contemporaneity is this dialectic of possibility and actuality transformed into the dialectic of loving the neighbor, where myself and the others establish a relationship of love that becomes a You-You relation, and not only an I-You or I-I relation. The relationship of You-You love, transcends the limits imposed by the I implied in an I-I love relation, and of the general duties imposed by the I-You relation. In the You-You love relation every single human being becomes a lover of the neighbor in its uniqueness of the response given to his vocation in a continuous movement of becoming himself. For Kierkegaard this is the very essence of becoming a Christian and is the contribution of Christianity to the world, for Christians and non-christians.

Geis, Scott David

Scott David Geis
Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Christian Brothers University

The Hound's Distant Baying, the Attentive Teacher, and Kierkegaard's Point of View

Recently, my administrative responsibilities at a small Roman Catholic university in the South took me to the beautiful state of Maine for a series of meetings on the role of academic advising in improving student learning. While there, I was introduced to a print of a painting by the 16th-century Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel, titled, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus; although well-acquainted with the myth of Icarus, I was not familiar with the painting to which my colleague pointed. However, as I listened to his observations and interpretations regarding the richness and significance of this work, I was reminded anew of the transformative nature and telos of teaching, the indispensable character of attention that applies, and the relevance of Søren Kierkegaard's poignant insights on this subject for those who view teaching in vocational terms (and where much more than often meets the eye is at stake).

This paper—at points, reflective in nature—focuses first on the "situation" Bruegel's painting seeks to capture and exploit (in the best and most instructive sense). Briefly: the painting presents a series of hillsides dotted with various human figures, each of whom is preoccupied with the actual business that contributes to their individual livelihoods. In fact, the figures seem not even to notice an event, in their very midst, that is (quite literally) of mythical proportions and significance, so intent are they on performing their respective tasks. Indeed, the only real evidence of this event—the fall of Icarus—is two spindly legs protruding from a body of water. In the sage observation of my colleague, "the mythic event is reduced to an insignificant detail on the borders of the everyday." In short, the painting focuses on this evident "disregard" and, as such, is really a "study of human inattention to the event of change." The central message of the painting seems thus to be a kind of plea to those with eyes capable of seeing: Pay attention. Be mindful. Take care. Lives are at stake. Remember this.

Although the figures in Bruegel's painting seem oblivious to the fact that a young man is drowning, the myth and the painting are not and, instead, are keen to a truth of which Kierkegaard frequently speaks: namely, that to be human is to love; to see the other as other, as the neighbor—an individual subject created from Love, by Love, for Love. This demands attention, humility, a teachable spirit, and an openness to change and transformation that begins with the teacher—the one seeking "to lead a person to a specific place" (lest he "only preach").

Drawing primarily on insights gleaned from The Point of View, The Sickness Unto Death, Without Authority, and Works of Love, this paper will take as its point of departure a hauntingly beautiful journal entry by Kierkegaard, wherein he appeals to a sense that is, by all accounts and to all evidence, universal in scope and application: "The distant baying of a hound, calling to faraway, friendly, and familiar places, provides the most beautiful proof of the immortality of the soul." And though conversion of the heart is most assuredly and solely the province of God's Spirit, the teacher is called to encourage—indeed, at least according to Kierkegaard, to compel—her students to "become aware" of the Object of their longing, which must begin with finding "the place where the other person is." Only then can the student's heart, soul, and mind begin to perceive and, eventually, realize the hopeful, transformative possibilities that await him in that environment called education.

Giannini, John Joseph

John Joseph Giannini
Ph.D. Student
Baylor University

Two Axes of Despair

In his book The Sickness Unto Death, Søren Kierkegaard devotes the entire third section to the examination of various forms of despair and their characteristic psychology. His pseudonym, Anti-Climacus, has just finished introducing us to his conception of the human self as a synthesis several elements, and so he begins his discussion of despair by characterizing its symptomatic imbalances between these constituents. But Kierkegaard's discussion appears to include four types of despair: despair of infinitude, of finitude, of possibility, and of necessity.

Since Kierkegaard regards the self as a relation between two constituents, it might seem odd that they could fall victim to four separate imbalances. Also, Kierkegaard discusses infinitude and possibility as closely linked, and likewise with finitude and necessity. Some have thus read Kierkegaard as describing only two sorts of despair but offering multiple descriptions of each. On this reading all despair falls along the same axis, between infinity/possibility and finitude/necessity.

I will argue for a different reading, one which takes Kierkegaard to be providing a more varied classification of despair based on its symptoms. I suggest that infinity/finitude and possibility/necessity are two distinct, though related, axes of possible imbalance in the self. Thus Kierkegaard's four descriptions represent four distinct imbalances, two on each axis. This reading seems to make better sense of the text, and also to provide a more psychologically useful taxonomy of despair.

Gregor, Brian

Brian Gregor
Assistant Professor
California State University, Dominguez Hills

James L. Taylor
Co-director, Balkans Semester for the Study of War and Peace
Gordon College

Jeffrey Hanson
Research Fellow
Australian Catholic University—School of Philosophy/Centre for Philosophy and Phenomenology of Religion

Kierkegaard on the Art of Existing

Throughout his works Kierkegaard expresses high regard for ancient philosophy. Where modern philosophy is prone to the temptations of detached, objective thinking, the ancient Greeks and Romans understood philosophy as the art of existing. One's life must become an expression of the truth. Truth is subjectivity, and thus philosophy requires the formation of subjectivity. Philosophy was a transformative, therapeutic project of caring for the self. Such existential self-understanding is also essential to Christianity, though in Christianity the self is constituted according to qualifications like sin, paradox, and faith. Our panel will discuss Kierkegaard's attempt to retrieve this ancient model of philosophy—but as the Greeks would have understood it if they had these Christian presuppositions (CA 79). What would this Christian retrieval look like? Recent years have seen a surge of interest in the ancient care of the self; what might Kierkegaard contribute to these scholarly debates? In responding to these questions, we see Kierkegaard is an exemplary Christian thinker for our time.

Unrivaled Professors in the Art of Living: Kierkegaard on the Lily of the Field and Bird of the Air

This paper begins by discussing Kierkegaard's attempt to retrieve the ancient model of philosophy, thus providing an introduction to our topic. The second part of the paper will discuss Kierkegaard's reflections on the lily of the field and bird of the air, which embody essential truths about the art of existing. I will focus on two main points: (1) The lily and the bird present a model of "self-mastery" and a therapy to overcome self-torment and other cares of the pagans. One such care is lowliness, and with it the ontology of self-justification and comparative rivalry that characterize the modern practice of self-creation. The bird and the lily suggest a healing transformation of self-consciousness into a second immediacy. (2) This transformation depends on existing before God, and the lily and the bird show the importance of silence as a condition to self-understanding before God. The art of silence is powerfully transformative and a necessary remedy for a world filled with chatter.

Two Rival Askeses: Kierkegaard and Foucault on Becoming a Self

Kierkegaard and Foucault were concerned primarily with subjectivity, and specifically with how a subject relates itself to truth. Rejecting the commonplace understanding of philosophy as an academic discipline concerned with gaining knowledge of what already exists, both thinkers viewed the truth as something that must be brought into being through self-transformation. That is to say, for both Kierkegaard and Foucault, truth is not an intellectual matter but must be achieved through askesis. But though they agree that truth requires askesis, they disagree about how to achieve this self-transformation. While Foucault returns to ancient Greek sources to advocate an aesthetic self-fashioning, Kierkegaard relies on Christian categories to propose a religious self-emptying or kenotic askesis. Foucault's askesis requires that the self build itself up by fashioning itself into a work of art; Kierkegaard's askesis requires that the self renounce its own sovereignty and learn to accept its dependence upon God's creative power. This paper will compare these rival askeses, focusing in particular on Foucault's critique of Christian formation, then on a Kierkegaardian response that exposes internal contradictions in Foucault's project and illustrates the need for divine transcendence.

Fear and Trembling as Kierkegaard's Consolation of Philosophy

Commentators on Fear and Trembling have often observed that at least one purpose of the text is to deliver a kind of shock therapy to a complacent audience. Many readers however forget the therapy in favor of the shock. I argue that Fear and Trembling is largely about the insufficiency of the ideals by which human beings ordinarily guide their lives. In the main these ideals are ethical and aesthetic: The former govern our aspirations toward responsible maturity; the latter direct us toward the coherence that we wish our lives to exhibit. The reality of sin however demonstrates that these ideals are impossible to achieve. Faith acknowledges that actuality defeats our original ideals and moves us toward a new, chastened ideal that does not pretend that sin, loss, and even death are not serious hindrances to the happiness and moral goals for which we originally aimed; faith then also gives us back our original desires in reconstituted, and indeed improved, form. We can in resignation remain with the disappointments that human life inevitably entails, or in faith we can open ourselves to a greater possibility than we could have originally envisioned.

Griffin, Mark

Mark Griffin
Professor of Spanish
Oklahoma City University

Kierkegaard Encountering Unamuno: A Non-foundationalism for Our Time

This paper is a comparative analysis of Kierkegaard and the Spanish author/philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, aimed at enriching the notion of non-foundationalism—understood as the conviction that human knowledge (with the possible exception of the "hard" sciences) can never be context-free and objectively-certain. I will maintain throughout that Kierkegaard's brand of Christian existentialism can profit from Unamuno's engagement of pluralism, and his blurring of the boundaries between the "ethical' and the "religious." And I will maintain, in turn, that Unamuno's approach can profit from Kierkegaard's willingness to embrace theological propositions.

The contemporary appeal of Kierkegaard and Unamuno (and, better yet, of the two read in conjunction) should lie in the fact that they relinquish the quest for objectively-certain knowledge without succumbing to a thoroughgoing relativism. In matters ethical, theological and "psychological," both of them depict truth as objectively-real but imperfectly-and-subjectively-perceived—as the object of a lifelong quest. To make these points, I will reference works like Either/Or, Fear and Trembling, Concluding Unscientific Postscript and Unamuno's Tragic Sense of Life.

Guerrero Martinez, Luis Ignacio

Luis Ignacio Guerreor Martinez
Universidad Iberoamericana

Spiritual Rebirth. Kiekegaard's Religious Dialectic

As a religious writer, Kierkegaard emphasizes the existential tension between the requirements of faith, hope and love, and the real human situation of sin. This tension is framed by specific determinations of the historical moment which have been repeated—in some way—in our own historical context. That is why Kierkegaard's thought is still so relevant.

This paper seeks to point out Kierkegaard's itinerary to a spiritual rebirth. This spiritual rebirth has three elements: the need of a shock of the self, the qualitative leap, and the divine gift. This will be shown through his writings.

The highest point of this spiritual itinerary finds its place in love. Referring to his Works of Love (1847), I will show this religious dialectic.

Hanson, Erik

Erik Hanson
University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Søren Kierkegaard and Second Life: A Second Look

In On the Internet, Hubert Dreyfus offers a critique of the 3-D virtual environment, Second Life. In this online, virtual environment, human agents construct avatars that bear a resemblance to themselves in Real Life, allowing them to engage ideas and interact with other individuals in virtual settings. Drawing upon Kierkegaard and other existentialists, Dreyfus argues that, in spite of its popularity and capacity for social interaction, Second Life suffers from a major flaw: Because it presumes the legitimacy of a Cartesian and dualistic existence that offers anonymity between participants, it fails to provide opportunities to participate in the shared vulnerability and genuine risk that makes embodied existence meaningful. This would appear to be particularly relevant for participants seeking religiously authentic community.

In my paper, I use Kierkegaard's account of constructed selfhood and indirect communication to argue against "Dreyfus' Kierkegaard". In particular, I show that Kierkegaard's account of religious and spiritual self-hood, as one that is ultimately determined by a transparent God-relation, suggests that our virtual interactions are capable of being models of embodied relationships when they are developed in recognized religious communities on Second Life. Such relationships, while limited, are in fact no less genuine when they are presented in the online environment than those that are off-line. For like Real Life, our spiritual selfhood on Second Life is necessarily "hidden" from observation, except when our interactions with others are offered as "works of love," in acts of worship and prayer. In short, I use Kierkegaard to show that the opportunities for religious community and spiritual engagement are enlarged rather than diminished when present within such virtual communities on Second Life.

House, Joshua

Joshua House
Law Clerk
Supreme Court of Nevada

Philip Byers
Resident Director
Bethel University (MN)

The Abuse of Reason: Kierkegaard's Thoughts on the Limits of Human Knowledge

M.G. Piety's recent work on Kierkegaard's epistemology brings to light a theme expressed throughout Kierkegaard's writings: humility. Regarding his epistemology, it is humility in the sense of understanding the limits of humanity's mental abilities. I will argue that Kierkegaard's thoughts on the limits of human knowledge have value for today's scholars and scientists. F.A. Hayek also devoted much effort to studying the limits of scientific knowledge in a research program that he originally called the "abuse of reason" project. This paper will compare Kierkegaard's thoughts on the limits of objective knowledge to Hayek's works on the limits of science. On several points, including 1) the value of personal experiential knowledge, 2) the application of pseudo-scientific terminology and methods to the studies of the humanities, 3) the tentative nature of scientific theses, and 4) the unobservability of human thoughts, Kierkegaard's epistemological writings are directly relevant to Hayek's and others' contemporary critiques of the social sciences. Both Kierkegaard and Hayek asserted that scholars, scientists, and those that use the results of scholarly or scientific studies must understand the limits human knowledge in order to act ethically. Both thinkers also argued against centralizing, systematizing, and objectivizing schools of thought: For Kierkegaard it was Hegel's system while for Hayek it was socialism's central planning. Although Kierkegaard was concerned with religious philosophy and Hayek concerned with political theory, both believed that acting humbly, with an understanding of the limits of one's knowledge, is essential to right living.

Huelin, Scott

Scott Huelin
Director of Honors Community
Union University

Kierkegaard and the Search for Wisdom

What does the work of Søren Kierkegaard have to say about the search for wisdom? Honors students at Union University who are currently taking a course called "Wisdom" will offer three presentations offering differing prospects and assessments.

Jackson, Nate

Nate Jackson
Graduate Student
Baylor University

Is It Lonely at the Assessor's Office? The Loss of the World in Either/Or

Kierkegaard is sometimes accused of proposing an ethic that loses the world, that is, that fails to recognize the legitimacy of others' moral claims on an individual. We might think of this as the existentialist two-step: obligations to other only make sense if one chooses to respect others' ability to make such claims. While I disagree that Kierkegaard's own view suffers from this problem, the loss of the world can be used as a criticism of lives in the various existence spheres, a test for the adequacy of these views. Thus, instead of arguing that Kierkegaard's own ethic suffers this failing, I want to leverage the criticism as a test for the ethics of the various spheres.

Specifically, I argue that ethical life-view, embodied in the character Judge William from Enten/Eller, suffers from the loss of the world. Insofar as the view suffers from this defect, we should regard this as failing in the particular life-view articulated by that character.William emphasizes choosing oneself as a means to becoming a self and overcoming despair. Judge William insists that the ethical life-view yields a civic or social personality which is responsive to others, but also that the individual becomes a self through her own choice, which suggests that one's reasons for action are tied to those activities and projects that one freely affirms. If one's reasons derive from one's autonomous choice, how can others make claims on an individual's activity? Though William's requirement that the choice to become a self involves repentance allays this worry somewhat, the distinction between what we choose to be essential as opposed to accidental about ourselves invites the loss of world.

William's account of choice involves two movements concerned with the self and society. The self I choose is conditioned by my history and my relationships; were it not, then I would face the problem that I create myself rather than choose myself. On the other hand, prior to this act of will, there is no continuity between various aspects of that history. In the two movements of choice, then, I first isolate myself as the chooser, since no social force and no other individual can become a self for me, and then establish continuity between the self pre- and post-choice. Thus, the claims others make on me first require that I take those up as a matter of autonomous choice.

William affords some response to this worry with the notion of "repentance." Acknowledging this history, and the painful aspects of these relationships presumably involves repentance as recognition of the wrong that one has done. Since this painful history involves wrongs against others and God, and one needs to acknowledge them as wrong in order to honestly choose oneself, and avoid the dangers of self-deception. By choosing in repentance, the individual acknowledges that others can make claims on her, and that she has been in the wrong in those relationships. If the personality is going to be contiguous looking forward, she must acknowledge that she is a member of a community of people and in a relationship to God that provides the context for her task of becoming a self. Since the self she chooses is a product, and she has to choose herself concretely in order to avoid self-deception, it seems that the moral community and the potential for others to make claims on her are part of the self that she is able to choose. Responsiveness to others is part of the task the individual takes on in the ethical life-view.

However, even choosing in repentance is insufficient to restore the connection to others, since it is up to the individual which relationships she will regard as essential to her character, and which are accidental. It seems that Judge William's view does have some resources to recover the world, as long as some relationships have to be regarded as essential to our project of choosing our self. However, this recovery does is not without its difficulties. The authority my choices have over others' projects and activities, and vice versa, is dependent upon the individual deciding to take up this relationship as essential to her self. For Judge William, the choice is up to the individual to regard some relationships and people's interests as accidental (so long as she takes responsibility for doing so), and it seems that vast majority of relationships could fall into this category. If this is possible, then it seems that often enough others' choices do not have the potential to give one reason for action.

Johnson, Daniel M.

Daniel M. Johnson
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Shawnee State University

Resignation and Faith as Spiritual Ideals: A Lesson from Kierkegaard on Worldview Patterns

In Fear and Trembling Kierkegaard presents a series of contrasts, all of which are exemplified in the story of Abraham, between faithful patterns of reasoning and what he calls "worldly understanding," which is basically reasoning that is conducted according to standards that are opposed to those which the faithful person adopts. His goal is to show that quite a few people who identify themselves as Christians (specifically, Hegel, and many ordinary people who think like Hegel does even if they haven't actually read any Hegel) don't actually think like Christians ought to think (the way Abraham, the father of faith, thought); their decisions, attitudes, and beliefs reveal that the basic commitments that govern their reasoning actually stand in opposition to the basic commitments that ought to accompany Christian faith.

What Kierkegaard is doing is identifying certain patterns of belief and attitude that ought to accompany a fully Christian worldview (and other patterns that require a worldview that is opposed to Christianity), and using the presence or absence of those patterns to diagnose the underlying worldview. The first of the contrasts he identifies between faith and worldly understanding is the contrast between the knight of faith and the knight of infinite resignation. It is my view that this pattern is of particular interest, and I will try to develop Kierkegaard's somewhat obscure treatment of it. I will argue that Kierkegaard is right to see that worldviews which place infinite resignation as the highest virtue or spiritual ideal are opposed to the Christian worldview in certain respects—there are features of Christianity which demand that infinite resignation not be the highest spiritual ideal.

The reason that this contrast is of particular importance is that infinite resignation is the highest spiritual ideal in a number of different major world religions and philosophies—Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Stoicism—and it is even defended by some 20th-century naturalists (notably, Bertrand Russell). I will examine two importantly different versions of the spiritual ideal of infinite resignation, found in the Indian classic The Bhagavad Gita and Bertrand Russell's A Free Man's Worship. I will argue that the contrast between the spiritual ideals found in these sources and the Christian spiritual ideal of faith is grounded in specific metaphysical differences between the worldviews—differences over the nature of God and the world. In other words, the reason that the Bhagavad Gita and the Bible disagree so much about the highest spiritual ideal for human beings is because they disagree about the nature of God and the relationship of God to the world.

Specifically, there are three features of the Christian worldview that rule out infinite resignation as the highest spiritual ideal: the Christian claims that God is distinct from the created order, that God can speak with authority and act with power in the created order, and that the created order is good and good for us (the creatures). Every worldview that has infinite resignation as its highest ideal rejects one or more of these claims. One interesting consequence of this is that there might be importantly different versions of the ideal of infinite resignation that reject some of these three features and not others. That means that the contrast between infinite resignation and faith might not always have the same source. Russell, I will argue, rejects a different aspect of Christianity than does the Bhagavad Gita, which yields an importantly different version of the ideal of infinite resignation. (Kierkegaard himself does not carefully distinguish these different possible versions of infinite resignation.)

I will conclude that Kierkegaard, with some help, has identified a pattern that distinguishes Christianity from opposed worldviews. This pattern is useful for a variety of ends. It contributes to our understanding of the relationship between Christianity and the world's other great religions. It can also be used as Kierkegaard used it: if someone, in practice or in theory, advocates a version of infinite resignation as the highest spiritual ideal, we can identify this as a symptom of a deeper disagreement between that person and Christianity. Finally, it can be used to identify misunderstandings of Christianity: if someone assimilates Christianity to those religions that advocate infinite resignation as the highest spiritual ideal, then they are misunderstanding Christianity in an important way. I will conclude by arguing that one of Nietzsche's major criticisms of Christianity makes precisely this mistake. Fear and Trembling, then, provides the resources for a reply to Nietzsche's critique.

Johnson, Eric L.

Eric L. Johnson
Lawrence and Charlotte Hoover Professor of Pastoral Care
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Stages On Christ's Way

Appearing throughout Kierkegaard's writings is a fairly well-elaborated model of human and Christian development consisting of 3 or 4 stages: the Aesthetic, Ethical, and Religiousness A and B. Modern psychologists have done a great deal of work over the last 100 years on developmental theory and research exploring human biological, social, cognitive, moral, and faith development. However, to my knowledge, virtually no work has been done on Kierkegaard's model of development by modern psychologists. The purpose of this paper will be to build upon and extend Kierkegaard's model in light of Christian theological, philosophical, and contemporary psychological work, without claiming complete fidelity to Kierkegaard's model.

Admittedly, Kierkegaard did not see the stages as universal, chronological stages that all humans necessarily pass through, but more like ways of life, spheres of existence, motivational frameworks or systems; and many, perhaps most, humans do not mature into the highest stage. Nevertheless, they have a temporal order, so the model qualifies as a "soft stage" theory.

First, a brief summary of the structure of the stages. From the first stirrings of consciousness, humans exist in the Aesthetic stage, in which they live for the moment, and are most motivated by the gratification of their own desires. Because the stage is unregulated by any norms outside the self, it reflects a degree of narcissism, and the aesthetic person may live a life that society considers immoral. Though characteristic of childhood, adults may remain in the Aesthetic stage their whole lives (e.g., Don Juan).

One might say that the Aesthetic person, then, is constituted by a set of conflicting desires. In order to become a self, according to Kierkegaard, persons must learn to regulate their desires by standards that are typically perceived as transcending the self. The Ethical stage consists of the process of learning to do so and is motivated by the desire to be moral. Thinking psychologically, the ability to regulate one's desires according to ethical standards begins to happen in mid to late adolescence. The Ethical stage is a relatively optimistic stage in which one's confidence in one's capacities to be ethical is relatively strong, but therefore, conversely, one's ethical self-awareness is weak.

The next stage Kierkegaard posited he called Religiousness A, which is a natural form of the religious life, accessible apart from the revelation of God in Christianity. Because this is a paper on a specifically Christian theory of development, not much time will be spent on this stage. The last stage, which assumes the religious awareness common to Religiousness A, Kierkegaard called simply Religiousness B, whereas I have termed it the "Spiritual stage." People move from the Ethical to the Religiousness stages because of a growing recognition of their incapacity to fulfill the infinite requirements of the Ethical without the help of God. Religiousness B is distinguished from A by the realization that just God's help is not enough, but one also needs God's grace and forgiveness, because one is a sinner. Religiousness B requires atonement, and is synonymous with true Christianity. Here, the Christian is motivated by a desire for God.

There is much that commends the theory. However, there are many questions that warrant further elaboration and empirical investigation. For example, the stages are organized according to different motivational systems. How does one's core motivation develop and mature? What different psychological dynamics characterize each stage, e.g., cognitions, emotions, and social dynamics? What are their neurological correlates, and how might socialization and education facilitate and hinder them. Furthermore, how does the Holy Spirit, the spiritual disciplines, suffering, and one's relationship with God enhance development?

Because of self-deception, one may not be aware of one's actual motivational framework. As a result, Christians can be functioning at the Aesthetic or Ethical stages, instead of the Spiritual stage. My particular interest is in understanding how adult Christians can exist in the aesthetic, ethical, and religiousness stages, and what cognitive and experiential reasons there are for adults to remain in the lower stages.

Empirical research is needed to answer these questions. Part of my reason for presenting on this topic is to begin planning a research study that would provide some answers.

Johnson, Luke

Luke Johnson
Ph.D. Candidate
University of Georgia

Is There a Kierkegaardian Ethical Project?

It is widely held, given how Kierkegaard speaks of ethics in Fear and Trembling, that Kierkegaard himself adopted the entirety of the Kantian ethical project. This appears to be a relatively shallow understanding of Kierkegaardian ruminations upon the ethical. In some texts, Kierkegaard emphasizes the soul-craft dimension of the ethical, which resounds clearly with students of Aristotle. In other works, the ethical is little more than something intuited through common sense or communicated by the societal entanglements within which we find ourselves. What we intend to do in this work is aim for clarity in regards to the following questions: 1) Can one have objective cognition of the ethical and if so what is the ethical's form?, 2) Is knowledge of the ethical predicated upon some superior cognition?, 3) Can the varying ways in which Kierkegaard spoke of the ethical be integrated or seen as unexplored dimensions of the Kantian project?, 4) Does Kierkegaard speak of the ethical in a multifaceted way, in order to demonstrate a larger point, perhaps concerning the limits of ethical knowledge?, and 5) Is there an element of Divine Command Theory in Kierkegaardian ethics? This paper will be an excerpt from a larger forthcoming dissertation entitled, "Kierkegaard and the Significance of Individuality".

Jones, Michael

Michael Jones
Adjunct Professor
University of Dallas

Kierkegaard on Thinking and Time: An Understanding of Time Is Not an Understanding of Time

Some of us in the 21st century feel that we hardly ever have enough time, and we rush about looking for ways to fill more things into the quantity of time that we have available; others of us, when not properly entertained, feel the long expanse of time stretching out before us and languish in boredom. Time takes on different qualities for us.

In Purity of Heart, Kierkegaard quotes Solomon, who says that everything has its season, perhaps even busyness and boredom, we might say, or labor and leisure. However that may be, Kierkegaard reflects on Solomon's words and adds a clarifying qualification: everything has its season, except the Eternal, which is always appropriate. Kierkegaard pardons Solomon's lack of clarity, however, because of the wise man's aged seniority.

Kierkegaard is a thinker for our time. His season has not passed because the things that he says in his writings (and the actions that he models by saying them) are as true now as they were then—and not accidentally, as if they will not apply later, but essentially, because they are true from the viewpoint of eternity.

The preceding assessment of our 21st century presents a paradox in that, while one era may on the whole have not enough time and another may have too much, the assessment can truly be understood in any era. The paradox is this: any temporal thing can be understood only atemporally. A temporal thing can come to be understood in time (and this is another paradox, namely, the temporality of the one who is to understand), and yet the viewpoint of the one who understands is in some sense eternal.

Time itself can be understood, but an understanding of time is not an understanding of time: that is, to understand time from the viewpoint of eternity is to understand it as something that it is not. Colloquially speaking, knowing that milk is delivered to the door on Tuesday is not the same as knowing that it needs to be taken in to keep from spoiling by Wednesday.

Having an understanding of time in the second sense means having an understanding of time in the existential sense. Life, as Kierkegaard noted in more than one place, is understood backward, but it has to be lived forward.

The things that filled Kierkegaard's time are not in every case the same as the things that fill our time, and yet the temporality of temporal things, including and especially the one who is to understand, is the same.

The essential thing in existing, too, is the same according to Kierkegaard's Postscript: to become ethical. A human being exists in time, no matter how strenuously he or she seeks abstracts himself or herself from existence through understanding. The point, then, is either to immerse oneself in existing or to become an abstract something-in-general; but an abstract something-in-general is not a human being, nor can a human being become one, and so the point is to immersion. This is to become ethical, because as soon as one's thinking relates to a task, the ethical appears.

The very greatest immersion in existence, however, according to Kierkegaard's pseudonym, Climacus, is Christianity: faith in an eternal happiness "against the understanding," "by virtue of the absurd," and "in relation to something historical." This is not the absentmindedness of the researcher from whose viewpoint time holds the "perishing," the "continually vanishing;" it is an existence from whose viewpoint the paradox is "continually discovered," the paradox, namely, that the eternal truth relates to a knower in time (the Socratic paradox), or rather, the same paradox with the further accentuation that the eternal truth stands outside of him or her in another person (the Christian paradox).

Christianity situates a person "at the very edge of existence," Climacus says. We might say, "at the very edge of time," so that a person butts up against not only God as the identity of being and thinking (which existence continually "hold apart" for a human being) but also God as the eternal.

Jothen, Peder

Peder Jothen
Associate Religion Professor
St. Olaf College

Kierkegaard, Aesthetics and the Social Imaginary

Within his idea of the "social imaginary," Charles Taylor describes the power of such things as visual images, films, and art (as aesthetic forms) to shape how people 'imagine' their social surroundings. In his view, these cultural artifacts present factual and normative conceptions of values and ideals that unify the common understandings and practices for a social group. But our context has competing social imaginaries, meaning there are debates about the values reflected in the images, art, and stories within our context, notably popular culture. For instance, on the one hand, groups such as the National Rifle Association argue that violence in films and video games promote actual violence; on the other, the Motion Picture Association of America argues that there is no such link. A contemporary issue for Christians then becomes the need to adjudicate between wider aesthetic forms of representation and the values that shape a Christian social imaginary.

It is around this issue of adjudication that Kierkegaard's thought can be immensely helpful. His thought defies simple categorization as he mixes ethics, aesthetics, philosophy, and theology. Instead, what holds these categories together is his idea of Christian becoming, of upbuilding Opbyggelige oneself to be a Christian self. This formation is a lifelong process, requiring thought, will, passion and action; one is always becoming. Primary in upbuilding is the self to God relation, and in particular a life dedicated to the imitatio Christi. To imitate is to redouble Fordoblelse: one's duty is to become Christ's double. Such an imitation never removes one from the world, a world of Facebook, Hollywood movies, and sensual advertisements. A life of faith is always amidst an aesthetic (as in sensual) cultural context.

This view of the self that is especially relevant to the contemporary context as it presupposes an idea of becoming based on three formative capacities: the imagination, will and passion. These three capacities are interrelated and interdependent, as formation depends on the proper inward relationship between the capacities expressed outwardly in moral action. Specifically, the imagination contains mental representations of visual images. Through imaginative reflection, an image becomes normative. The will chooses the image to redouble, though it is only because of the imagination that any choice is possible. Finally, passion, when formed by this chosen normative image, moves the self towards redoubling it outwardly within one's existence. In sum, a self imaginatively envisions a moral exemplar, a normative reflection that shapes passionate desire to become it after willfully choosing it. As interdependent, all three capacities must rightly be related to Christian truth and each other in order for a self to become a Christian.

In thinking about contemporary social imaginaries, seeing Superman or Lady Gaga thus relate to self-formation because they stir the imagination to mentally image a form of existence and can also call forth a passionate, imitative response as in becoming like the life depicted in the image. Yet, Christ's life is the standard by which to evaluate one's formation. Instead of a simple norm, each person is called then to care about the ideas of becoming that one strives to be, thereby giving Christians norms to critically evaluate the images and ideas within the wider culture. In the process, aesthetic dimensions of culture, such as Superman or Lady Gaga, thus can be an aid and/or a detriment to Christian formation; instead, one should strive to enact Christ's life, recognizing the fantastically nature of many ideas of selfhood within popular culture, while appreciating them as relational foils to one's becoming.

Consequently, his thought speaks to Christians today by reminding us to care about what type of person we become. In a pluralistic cultural context, he articulates a way of evaluating and critically thinking about cultural products from a Christian standpoint. Critically thinking about visual images and Christian formation requires an analysis of both the ethical content revealed by the image but also the passionate dimensions of the images, art, and stories that shape our social imaginaries. His view also affirms the reality that seeing is a practical discipline, one that requires a critical awareness and concern over how one responds to the visual world. One cannot control completely what one sees, but instead one must recognize that it is how one imagines and desires that can determine the power and authority of visual images as a part of self-formation.

Kleinert, Markus

Markus Kleinert
Assistant Professor, Dr.
Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, University of Erfurt

Transfiguration in Kierkegaard and Beyond: Tracing the Dynamics of a Religious Symbol

The Transfiguration on the Mount—for us usually more a matter of education than of existential importance. In Western modernity, to be more specific: in the last two centuries of West European culture there seems to have been a certain indifference about this subject. We get a different impression of the cultural relevance of transfiguration when we do not focus only on the biblical episode and turn towards a more wide-reaching concept or symbolic system that also encompasses religious tradition. Against this background, I want to ask what transfiguration means in Kierkegaard's work, whether it has any importance at all in his work, since the subject tended to be marginalized especially in Protestantism. In the first part of my paper, I will describe some of the cultural factors that contributed to the complexity of the transfiguration concept: first, the different elaborations of the idea of Transfiguration in the Eastern and Western churches; secondly, the elaboration of an aesthetic idea of transfiguration, which is more or less independent of the religious one; and thirdly, special terminological aspects in the Danish word for transfiguration, that is forklarelse. In the second part of my paper, I will introduce some evidence that Kierkegaard did indeed touch on the topic of transfiguration, focussing on some passages where he refers explicitly to it: in the early journals with regard to the experience of conversion, in Either/Or with regard to poetic and philosophic transfigurations, in the edifying discourse "One Who Prays Aright Struggles in Prayer and Is Victorious—in That God Is Victorious" with reference to Paul, in the late journals in connection with typological issues. I will conclude my presentation with a few notes on how the concept of transfiguration has evolved in the 20th and 21st centuries. So, by reflecting on the transfiguration, I try to trace the intrinsic dynamics of a symbolic system which is instructive in systematic and historic respect (concerning religious symbols and their unfolding under certain cultural and confessional conditions) and which is still relevant for the religious life of our time.

Larsen, Rasmus Rosenberg

Rasmus Rosenberg Larsen
Ph.D. Candidate
University at Buffalo

Kierkegaard and Schelling in Perspective—Integrating Existence into Idealism

Søren Kierkegaard is often considered to be one of the most vocal critics of German Idealism. However, recent Kierkegaard-studies emphasizes that the Danish philosopher found in the early part of the idealistic movement a great source of philosophical inspiration. The present paper analyzes the philosophical similarity between Friedrich Schelling's early work and Kierkegaard's existential writings, endeavouring to display the early Schelling as a possible forerunner to Kierkegaard. One of the main problems is that Kierkegaard never explicitly discusses or cites Schelling's work, namely the latter's work Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom from 1809. Therefore, Schelling's early philosophy has largely been overlooked or rejected in secondary literature as having a significant impact on Kierkegaard's authorship. By juxtaposing the two thinkers, concrete similarity is revealed, which supports the possibility that Schelling's early work could have been of great inspirational value for Kierkegaard, especially Kierkegaard's core concepts such as human self-hood, freedom, anxiety, God and sin have an apparent correlation to Schelling's early philosophy. Schelling's early work is multifaceted, but it is primarily appreciated as a philosophy of nature, and therefore fundamentally different from Kierkegaard's theistic-psychological writings. The present paper tentatively opposes this distinction between Schelling and Kierkegaard—concluding that if Schelling really is a forerunner to Kierkegaard, then we ought to appreciate Kierkegaard's writings as more than a narrow theistic-psychological message. The conclusion suggests that Kierkegaard's writings should be viewed in a broader philosophical context, closer to a philosophy of nature; closer to that idealism he is often assumed to resist.

Lee, Caleb

Caleb Lee
Ph.D. Candidate
University of Calgary

Kierkegaard and the Constituents of Belief

In this paper I bring Kierkegaard into the current discussion in analytic epistemology concerning the source and authority of the norms of belief. I argue that certain insights found in his work constitute a novel position with regard to the meta-normative status of truth for belief.

It is generally accepted that one ought to believe a proposition only if one has sufficient evidence for its truth (Gibbard, 2005; Shah, 2003; Wedgewood, 2002). Call this view evidentialism. Since Kierkegaard is often interpreted as claiming that one is permitted (in at least some cases) to believe a proposition on faith, he is often presented as an adversary to evidentialism(Chignell, 2013).

Both evidentialism and Kierkegaardian fideism specify conditions under which beliefs are permitted. They can, therefore, both be understood as specifying the content of the first order norms that govern belief. However, we might ask another sort of question about these norms, namely, what is the source of the authority they exert over us? An influential response to this question given by many evidentialists today is that the norms of belief arise from the nature of belief itself (Adler, 2002; Shah, 2006; Velleman, 2000; Williamson, 2000). On this view, believing necessarily involves being subject to certain norms. The evidentialist who takes this approach holds that the reason one ought to only believe upon sufficient evidence is because being thus constrained follows from some necessary fact about belief.

I interpret Kierkegaard as also taking this approach. To justify this interpretation I draw on Gregory Schufreider's work on the 'absurd' as found in the Postcript (Schufreider ,1983). On this interpretation, a kind of commitment to regard a proposition as true is sufficient for one to believe that proposition. Since this kind of commitment does not involve being subject to any sort of evidential norm, if we are indeed subject to such a norm, the evidentialist is mistaken about its source. I, therefore, take Kierkegaard as providing a criticism of evidentialism using the very conceptual machinery that is normally used to support it. If this is right, it turns out that the disagreement between Kierkegaard and the evidentialist runs deeper than expected; the conflict is not about when one is permitted to believe, but about the very nature of belief.

Luzardo, Jesus

Jesus Luzardo
Graduate Student
Fordham University

"And on the Last Page…": Kierkegaardian Love in the Works of Camus"

In this paper, I will attempt to bring closer together the thoughts of Søren Kierkegaard and Albert Camus by arguing that there is an overlooked relationship to be found in their thoughts regarding the nature of love, even despite their much-noted theological differences. Kierkegaard, of course, presents us with an elaborate, though not exhaustive, deliberation on love in Works of Love, while Camus dedicated no text, essay or novel, to a direct exploration of the topic. Thus, I will ground Camus' ethics of rebellion as presented in the 1951 essay The Rebel and its novelistic counterpart The Plague, in Kierkegaard's radical love-based ethic.

The Rebel opens up with a description of the process by which rebellion comes about and a portrait of the rebel par excellence. For Camus, the rebel emerges through a negation of suffered oppression and injustice and an affirmation of his or her own values. These values, however, are not exclusive to the recently-emerged rebel but instead appear to the rebel to be universal, as illustrated by the mere fact that the rebel par excellence would sacrifice his/her life in order to defend these values. While most of the remainder of the essay serves as a historical tracing of rebellion and its corruption, this initial description will supply most of the content for our comparison with Kierkegaard's Works of Love. What will be argued here is that both Kierkegaard and Camus provide an ethic that is active, egalitarian (a large part of the discussion is based on Kierkegaard's "Duty to Love the Neighbor as Yourself"), and anti-eschatological. Theological differences will not be avoided. Instead, it will be shown that Kierkegaard's radical (and practical) conception of love avoids the issues raised by Camus' critique of religion, namely that it justifies injustices in the present in order to reach salvation outside of time. Similarly, Camus's conception of rebellion and solidarity (he scarcely uses the word "love") is much closer—at least in its practical manifestations—to Kierkegaard's "kjerlighed" than to "elskov," which here encompasses "Pagan" and erotic love and which serve as his main targets.

The Plague, which was published four years earlier but nonetheless belongs to the same "cycle of rebellion" within Camus' oeuvre, serves both to aesthetically illustrate Camus' ethics of rebellion and to move the comparison forward towards a discussion of the relationship between neighborly and preferential love. The discussion centers around two characters in the novel, Joseph Grand and Rambert. Grand, a supporting character in the novel, is a civil servant who tirelessly helps the main characters deal with the titular plague taking place in the small town of Oran, Algeria. Grand is a lonely and simple man who modestly rejects any gratitude for his work, given the gravity of the situation, and ultimately represents Kierkegaardian neighborly love in its purest form. Rambert, on the other hand, spends a considerable part of the novel attempting to escape the town to be with his beloved, whom he holds as more important than the ailing people of Oran. He justifies his attempts to flee through a dichotomy of love and heroism, the latter of which he regards as necessarily abstract. Rambert clearly represents preferential love—which Kierkegaard holds as inferior and arguably not love at all—in these initial chapters. However, it is argued that the central event in the novel is the transformation of his love from the preferential to the neighborly, which occurs after his realization that it is only by staying in the town and helping the dying citizens of Oran that he can responsibly receive his beloved with open arms at the novel's conclusion; such an image perfectly illustrates the manner in which the preferential can continue existing within the neighborly, against common criticisms that the ethic presented in Works of Love is too abstract and general to allow for such relationships.

The Plague, which was published four years earlier but nonetheless belongs to the same "cycle of rebellion" within Camus' oeuvre, serves both to aesthetically illustrate Camus' ethics of rebellion and to move the comparison forward towards a discussion of the relationship between neighborly and preferential love. The discussion centers around two characters in the novel, Joseph Grand and Rambert. Grand, a supporting character in the novel, is a civil servant who tirelessly helps the main characters deal with the titular plague taking place in the small town of Oran, Algeria. Grand is a lonely and simple man who modestly rejects any gratitude for his work, given the gravity of the situation, and ultimately represents Kierkegaardian neighborly love in its purest form. Rambert, on the other hand, spends a considerable part of the novel attempting to escape the town to be with his beloved, whom he holds as more important than the ailing people of Oran. He justifies his attempts to flee through a dichotomy of love and heroism, the latter of which he regards as necessarily abstract. Rambert clearly represents preferential love—which Kierkegaard holds as inferior and arguably not love at all—in these initial chapters. However, it is argued that the central event in the novel is the transformation of his love from the preferential to the neighborly, which occurs after his realization that it is only by staying in the town and helping the dying citizens of Oran that he can responsibly receive his beloved with open arms at the novel's conclusion; such an image perfectly illustrates the manner in which the preferential can continue existing within the neighborly, against common criticisms that the ethic presented in Works of Love is too abstract and general to allow for such relationships.

Mahn, Jason A.

Jason A. Mahn
Associate Professor of Religion
Augustana College

Church Hidden and Revealed in Søren Kierkegaard and John Howard Yoder

Since the publication of The Politics of Jesus in 1972, the influence of Mennonite historian and theologian John Howard Yoder on political theology and Christian pacifism cannot be overestimated. Almost single-handedly saving Anabaptist ethics from easy dismissals by political realists, Yoder famously critiques "Constantinianism"—those deep cultural-political assumptions that the church becomes socially effective and "realistic" only when it motivates people for national policy-making and mobilizes military defense. While Stanley Hauerwas is responsible for popularizing Yoder's work beyond Anabaptist circles, and however emphatically Yoder wrote for the church as a whole, his critique of Constantinianism and his radical vision of Christian pacifism continue to be marginalized and romanticized even (and especially) as they become well known.

For very different reasons, Søren Kierkegaard's attack on Christendom, or the Christian establishment, at the end of his life has undergone a similar fate. Determined to separate that "direct attack" from Kierkegaard's more nuanced, indirect socio-political critiques, scholars have limited the pertinence of "Christendom" to Denmark's particular state-church arrangement, to ecclesial battles over infant baptism, or to Kierkegaard's personal reactions to Bishop Mynster. The Christendom he critiques thereby seems to be a passing circumstance and thus the interest of church historians (and "Kierkegaardians") alone.

In this paper I will argue that the Constantinianism diagnosed by Yoder and the Christendom resisted by Kierkegaard continue to characterize the American cultural-political landscape, despite attempts to historicize and thus minimize their theo-political critiques. I will show that the critiques draw from both traditions: Kierkegaard anticipates the marks of Yoder's true church and was influenced by the sixteenth century radical reformation, primarily through participation with the Moravians and his relation with the free church "awakenings" of his day. Yoder (and especially Hauerwas) evoke Kierkegaard when widening their critiques of violence into critiques of "the establishment" itself.

Ironically, Kierkegaard's categories (for example, in The Present Age, Practice in Christianity, and The Moment) might diagnose the predicament of American Protestantism even better than Yoder's anti-Constantinianism, despite the latter's American context. For although sophomoric readings of Kierkegaard pit empty ecclesial ritualism against authentic, individual commitment and choice, I will show that it is Kierkegaard—rather than Yoder in his free church tradition—who best glimpses the way neoliberalism, with its freedom of religion and individual spiritual questing—comprises the most recent and tenacious form of Christendom. Once Christendom takes the form of "authentic," committed, personal choice, how does one go beyond it? On my reading, Kierkegaard not only anticipates the leading critic of contemporary American Christianity, he does so without investing false, idolatrous hope in one's own "authentic" commitments.

Malagon, Anthony Oscar

Anthony Oscar Malagon
Purdue University

Toward an Existential Proof of God

This paper attempts to put Kierkegaard in a modern context by exploring the possibility of an existential proof of God. It seeks to open a space for the possibility of a knowledge of God outside of what might be called the realm of objectivity, or objective thought, within which all traditional proofs of God lie. To be clear, I do not yet intend to provide an existential proof, but simply to strive toward laying the foundation for its possibility. To do so I will argue that such a foundation has already been laid within the philosophies of both Søren Kierkegaard and Gabriel Marcel. It will first be shown that Kierkegaards notion of truth is not a subjectivist or relativistic one, (as it is commonly thought), thus revealing his contribution to the problem of religious truth. Then, Marcels brand of existentialism is be used to provide a clearer elaboration of Kierkegaard on the notion of truth. Finally, it is hoped that a plausible notion of existential truth has been made clear via the analysis here provided of Kierkegaard, as well as Marcel, and that a space has been opened for what I choose to call an existential proof of God.

Manis, R. Zachary

R. Zachary Manis
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Southwest Baptist University

"Eternity will nail him to himself": The Logic of Damnation in The Sickness unto Death

The problem of hell—the problem of how to reconcile the orthodox view of God as maximally good and loving with the traditional doctrine that some are eternally damned—has generated much discussion in the recent literature. In response to the problem, a number of notable Christian philosophers have recently defended some version of the choice model of hell: the view that hell is in some important sense chosen by those who inhabit it, rather than being imposed on the damned against their will as a divine punishment. In Hell: The Logic of Damnation, Jerry L. Walls defends his version of the choice model by drawing on insights from Kierkegaard's The Sickness unto Death at certain key points. Following Walls' lead, I will argue that Kierkegaard should be counted among the list of major historical proponents of the choice model.

My first task will be to argue that Kierkegaard holds the view that damnation comes in different forms, and we find anticipated in SUD at least two varieties of the choice model that have been developed in the contemporary philosophical literature. On one version of the choice model, defended by Jerry Walls and Jonathan Kvanvig, hell—understood as eternal separation from God—is the explicit and direct object of choice of those who are finally lost. This corresponds to the condition that Anti-Climacus discusses in SUD under the section title "In Despair to Will to Be Oneself: Defiance": the individual who 'wants to be himself, himself in his torment, in order to protest against all existence with his torment" and whose eternal desire is to "stand as a witness" against God and His goodness, to bear witness that God is a "second-rate" Creator (73-74). On another version of the choice model, defended by Richard Swinburne, Eleonore Stump, and C. S. Lewis, hell is the natural consequence of the free choices of the damned, though not that which the inhabitants of hell choose directly. This corresponds to the condition that Anti-Climacus calls "In Despair Not to Will to Be Oneself: Despair in Weakness."

Anti-Climacus suggests that this latter form of damnation is far more common than the former, but the implications of this version of the choice model are troubling. A crucial passage from the opening section of SUD highlights the problem:

"Such is the nature of despair, this sickness of the self, this sickness unto death. […] To be saved from this sickness by death is an impossibility, because the sickness and its torment—and the death—are precisely this inability to die. […] No matter how much the despairing person avoids it, no matter how successfully he has completely lost himself (especially the case in the form of despair that is ignorance of being in despair) and lost himself in such a manner that the loss is not at all detectable—eternity nevertheless will make it manifest that his condition was despair and will nail him to himself so that his torment will still be that he cannot rid himself of his self… Eternity is obliged to do this, because to have a self, to be a self, is the greatest concession, an infinite concession, given to man, but it is also eternity's claim upon him" (21).

While it seems clear that hell is a free choice for those whose will and desire is separation from God, it is not initially clear how it is a free choice for those who do not (knowingly) desire separation from God and who are even ignorant that their earthly condition is one of despair. In particular, the claim that "eternity… will nail him to himself so that his torment will still be that he cannot rid himself of his self" suggests that the final state of the damned is not in such cases freely chosen, but rather imposed on the damned against their wills. The principle advantage of the choice model is its supposed ability to explain how God's love is expressed even in His willing that some are lost: God allows those who do not desire communion with Him—those who choose self-rule over self-surrender—to get what they want. But if the final state of the damned is imposed on them rather than chosen, it is hard to see how this most basic tenet of the choice model is upheld; it seems, instead, that the choice model is being abandoned in favor of a more traditional view that sees damnation as a divinely-imposed punishment.

Accordingly, the second task of the present essay will be an attempt to explain this passage from SUD and to address the aforementioned problems. I will discuss some possible interpretations of the term "eternity" in this passage—as well as what is at stake with these different interpretations—and try to explain what it means that eternity "will nail him [the despairing one] to himself" and why eternity is "obliged to do this." In doing so, I hope to make clear the logic of damnation in this key Kierkegaardian text and thereby to highlight one facet of Kierkegaard's continued relevance to contemporary philosophy.

Marsh, William

William Marsh
Social Sciences Teacher
Westminster Christian High School

Kierkegaard, Nothingness, and Faith

Central to Kierkegaard's picture of individual fulfillment is the idea of nothing. For Kierkegaard, nothing, as that which "begets" the angst (anxiety) that is so essential to knowing God, is the ground of spiritual possibility, freedom's "actuality as the possibility of possibility." Without nothing, something cannot be, and without nothing possibility has no substance. Nothing is foundational to the task of finding the path to meaning, the "moment."

Kierkegaard's view of nothing (or nothingness) as possibility has countless parallels in Christian and pagan thought. From Barth's observation that nothingness is the "reality" which opposes and resists God," the sin that brought Jesus Christ to the cross;" to Sartrebs contention that nothingness is the cleavage between "the immediate psychic past and the present;" to St. John of the Cross's notion of the soul's state of absolute "purgatory," a state of utter darkness seemingly bereft of all hope and light, the "via negative" which frees an individual to attain to the "highest heights" of Heaven, to cite just a few, it is faith in nothingness as possibility that is recognized as foundational to nurturing individual growth, wisdom, and perception. The human being embraces nothingness in order to find the possibilities, potential, direction, and vision that drive her experience.

According to Kierkegaard, however, the self will not find a true experience in nothingness unless it invests itself in the nothingness of repentance and self-abnegation before a real and existing divine. In his understanding of resignation and angst as necessary predecessors to the passage to the moment, Kierkegaard established that, contrary to the contentions of the modern existentialists who would follow him, nothingness, as he conceived it, is invalid and therefore futile in an empty universe. He affirmed the essentiality of the "somethingness" of God to the pursuit of meaning in the human experience.

From this Kierkegaardian formulation of the process of meaning, we derive a picture of faith for our present day, the picture that will form the heart of this paper. For Sartre and his fellow existentialists, it is nothingness that, in a world devoid of meaning, is necessarily, and oddly enough, the starting point for meaning, as evanescent as it may prove to be. Ironically, it is faith in the absence of meaning and the attendant and assumed fact of nothingness that drives the human being forward. Life therefore becomes an experience based on the already asserted absence of something (meaning) the human is hoping to, at least for an instant, find.

Against this contradiction, Kierkegaard recognized that affirming the necessity of a "leap of faith" out of nothingness into an "objective uncertainty" as the path to finding genuine meaning avails little if the human being has not agreed previously that meaning exists. Only the fact of God, he realized, ensures that the material and immaterial mediums in which a person she lives have, in and of themselves, meaning. He understood that we cannot find what cannot possibly exist.

Hence, faith, though it may seem without evidence, is in fact a faith that understands it cannot exist without evidence, this evidence being that meaning, in the broadest sense, is possible. Its seminal (quite apart from that of subjective experience) evidence is therefore its existential meaning.

In this, Kierkegaard granted, through faith, objective truth to the subjective experience. He presents a picture of faith that although it is a faith that recognizes its limitations (e.g., inabil-ity to achieve complete knowledge in a finite world), it is also a faith that properly interprets its place in reality, a faith that affirms that it is only as powerful as the ultimate ground of its evi-dence. Sartre's vision of human quest, however, demands a faith in the absence of evidence (and meaning) when in fact faith cannot be faith without meaningful evidence. With Kierkegaard, we see faith as an evidential experience of meaning that is only possible in a meaningful world. Those who invest in such faith are those who extract the full richness of its subjectivity. Theirs is a faith that grasps the ambiguity of a finite world while recognizing that such ambiguity would not even be such without meaningful form and transcendent center. God remains a matter of faith, but it is a faith grounded and birthed in a realistic and consistent assessment of what is real.

McCombs, Richard

Richard McCombs
Tenured faculty member
St. John's College in Santa Fe, NM

Kierkegaard, Psychology and the Psychomachia of Everyday Life

In the estimation of many educated or cultured people today, heroism is outmoded. Human beings are increasingly belittled and marginalized by their own technological inventions. The ever increasing size and complexity of the social, political and economic systems in which we are all enmeshed have made it more difficult and less desirable for individuals to stand out heroically. Our knowledge of the great artists, thinkers and statesmen of the past burdens us with the demoralizing fear that we can never measure up, or that our best hope is merely to become dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants. The democratic sensibility that pervades the western world is more tolerant of almost anything than of the desire to excel others on a grand scale. The masters of suspicion have discredited many of our former heroes and made us doubt the very possibility of heroism. In our condition of disenchantment we are tempted to suspect that most and perhaps all heroic achievements are ultimately rooted in weakness, baseness and illusion.

Recent psychology is one of the main causes that belief in and aspiration to heroism are almost everywhere on the decline. Its founder Freud taught that greatness and even mere decency are the result of a sublimation of the desire for crude sexual satisfaction, or of a prudential compromise between the beast of the id and the constricting demands of civilization. In the wake of Freud many psychologists counsel their patients or readers to lower their standards and expectations, or to learn to boost their self-esteem despite their guilt or their failures to realize their potential. Frequently the goal of counseling or of self-help books is not high achievement but 'getting by', 'functioning', 'coping', or 'adjusting'. Owing to advances in the pharmaceutical industry it has become possible to treat symptoms of mental disorders while altogether neglecting the hard work of attempting to understand and overcome the irrationality, anxiety or trauma at the root of the illness.

Despite the critiques of heroism and the discouraging practices found within some contemporary psychology, it is arguable that many psychologists today have a clear vision of the need for heroism in everyday life, and that psychological counseling and writing in many cases encourages heroic virtue. Many psychologists hold that becoming a genuinely mature person requires strength, courage and even heroism. To become an adult is to become an individual, and therefore independent, self-reliant, self-motivated and responsible. Growing up also means pursuing one's dreams, striving to realize one's potential by courageously testing oneself in trials and challenges, and becoming capable and worthy of freedom. Finally, maturity means, first, honestly facing up to the inevitability of death and to the possibility of accidents, disease, old age, failure in one's dearest projects, financial ruin, loss of or harm to loved ones, undeserved ill repute, war, persecution, disprized love, etc., and, second, living courageously despite these sources of suffering. Thus maturity is arguably a heroic achievement.

Some psychologists, or thinkers deeply influenced by psychology, argue that there is a profound human need to see and to feel oneself as a heroic agent. Modest self-esteem is not enough; we need a self-respect grounded in testing ourselves against formidable challenges and in striving to overcome our limitations. Similarly, the existence of meaning and value in the world is not enough; we also need to see ourselves as heroic actors in life's drama. A human being dwarfed into insignificance and impotence in a profoundly meaningful cosmos will suffer from a kind of nihilism almost as debilitating as that which feels that all is futility and emptiness.

Ernest Becker argues in The Denial of Death on the basis of evidence from clinical and existential psychoanalysis that health and happiness require heroism. Becker is deeply influenced by Kierkegaard, resembles him in many respects, but also diverges from him in interesting ways. I therefore propose to compare their conceptions of psychological or spiritual heroism and their accounts of the human need to experience oneself as heroic. Becker develops some of Kierkegaard's hints about heroism in a way that I think Kierkegaard would approve. He also deeply appreciates many crucial aspects of the prodigious difficulty of heroism, which includes the task of tempering a proud and heroic self-vision with profound humility; but, I would like to argue, Kierkegaard, who had a mission to "create difficulties everywhere," would also urge that Becker's Denial of Death does not yet fathom the depth of the difficulty of heroism.

Millay, Thomas J.

Thomas J. Millay
Duke Divinity School

Community and Comfort; or, Why the Late Kierkegaard is an Individualist

In a previous paper titled "The Late Kierkegaard on Human Nature" (published in Acta Kierkegaardiana Vol. VI), I established how the polemical category of "comfort" is essential for the thinking of the late Kierkegaard (circa 1850-1855). In short, comfort is the opposing term in the dualism comfort/suffering. Comfort, therefore, encompasses all that is aligned against true Christianity in the late SK, since to be a Christian is to suffer. In this paper, I aim to show how community is subsumed under this category of comfort in the texts of the late Kierkegaard (particularly texts in The Moment). Because of this subsumption of community under the category of comfort, Christianity (as the doctrine of suffering) must also necessarily be opposed to community. This subsumption thus explains precisely why the late Kierkegaard is an individualist. Presuming that contemporary Christian thinkers want to develop an account of Christianity that is amenable to community, I conclude by outlining how this account of the late Kierkegaard's individualism makes Kierkegaard both more and less problematic for contemporary theologians and ethicists. More problematic, because the logic of individualism is powerfully at work in these texts; less problematic, because Kierkegaard did not envision anything like a suffering community. Recognizing the latter claim, and developing an account beyond Kierkegaard's limitations, may make an appropriation of these texts for a communal Christian ethic a real and distinct possibility.

Morgan, Jeff

Jeff Morgan
Doctoral candidate
University of Notre Dame

Sociality and the Single Individual: Conscience in the Theology of Søren Kierkegaard

We live in a spiritually and morally fragmented culture and not in Søren Kierkegaardbs Christendom, and so we may rightly wonder if his aim to build up the "single individual" apart from the life and self-understanding of a community is a salutary aim for our time. Karl Barth, for one, is suspicious about "the individual in whose existence nearly everything seems to be centered for Kierkegaard," and concludes that Kierkegaard's "holy individualism" announces a "new anthropocentric system" that would ultimately encourage in the twentieth century "a subjectivity that as such regarded itself as the truth" (Barth 1971, 99).

These objections are particularly applicable to Kierkegaard's theology of conscience. Kierkegaard claims that "eternity seizes each one by the strong arms of conscience, holding him as an individual" (Kierkegaard 1993, 192). What this means, he explains, is that at "every person's birth there comes into existence an eternal purpose for that person, for that person in particular," and that each person's conscience asks about his or her fidelity to this eternal purpose: "Are you living in such a way that you are conscious of being a single individual?" (Kierkegaard 1993, 93; 127). For Kierkegaard, then, conscience represents our participation with God in God's knowledge of us and as such it testifies to us about our singular responsibility before God to become who God has created us to be. And in this vein Kierkegaard believes that the summons we hear through the testimony of conscience must not be confused with the claims a community makes upon us.

With Barth's objections in mind, we can ask, does this understanding of conscience not place an undue emphasis on the individual? The conscience discloses to each of us our "eternal purpose" as single individuals and asks us about the quality of our lives according to this disclosure, but what role do others have to help us discern who we are and who we ought to be? Is moral and spiritual formation a strictly private affair that takes place in conscience between a person and God? We may press further and ask, do others have a share in the cultivation of a person's conscience or do they just get in its way? And where, indeed, in Kierkegaard's theology of conscience "are the people of God?" In light of such questions, we may ask again, and now more pointedly, is Kierkegaard's understanding of conscience salutary for our time?

Kierkegaard's understanding of conscience is a compelling attempt to account for the way God is present to each of us and to explain how God's presence renders each of us singularly accountable moral subjects. Attention to this attempt is indeed salutary for our time because ours is a time not only of moral and spiritual fragmentation but also when individual moral identity all too easily can become sublimated into the pull of such things as nation, race, political party, sexual orientation, and so on. It is therefore critical to articulate how moral identity is constituted apart from such corporate self-understandings, and how we are singularly accountable for the quality of our lives, whatever may be the claim corporate entities make on us, and however basic social forces are to our moral formation. Through an examination of key texts in Kierkegaard's "second authorship" I will consider the objections and questions above and argue that Kierkegaard does indeed give too little credit with respect to our moral formation to the good of community and to the reality of our dependence upon others, but that his theology of conscience provides a much needed account of how God constitutes each of us as singularly responsible individuals and how genuine social unity depends upon the presence and cultivation of such "single individuals." I will suggest, in conclusion, how Kierkegaard's theology of conscience might remain in tact while accommodating a more satisfying account of the good of community and the social nature of our moral formation.

Works cited

Morgan, Silas M.

Silas M. Morgan
Lecturer of Theology
Loyola University Chicago

Sylvia Walsh
Stetson University

Jason Mahn
Augustana College

Kyle Roberts
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology & Director, Master of Arts in Christian Thought, Bethel Seminary

Kierkegaard on the Church: The Political, the Poetic, and the Prophetic

Roberts, Kyle A. Emerging Prophet: Kierkegaard and the Postmodern People of God. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2013.

On the occasion of Søren Kierkegaard's 200th birthday, the 2013 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture on Thursday, October 31-Saturday, November 2 will take up this perennially important question about Kierkegaard's legacy: "is he a Christian thinker for our time—do his ideas resonate in our 21st-century context?" Kyle Roberts recently ventured a new and direct answer to this question in his recent Emerging Prophet: Kierkegaard and the Postmodern People of God (Cascade, 2013), where he specifically explores the relevance for Kierkegaard's theological and social critique of 'Christendom' for ongoing debates within late- and post-modern forms of Christian life and churchly practice.

This specific focus of the Baylor symposium affords us all a unique opportunity to form a book review panel in order to dig deeper into Kyle's recent publication. The special relevance of Robert's book for the symposium is clear. In the introduction, Roberts seeks "to directly engage the religious thought of Kierkegaard with thinkers associated with or influential on emergent Christianity" (p. 4). Elsewhere, Roberts wants to proliferate a reading of Kierkegaard helpful and inspiring for "those who are seeking a fresh, deeply authentic way to practice the Christian faith in our complex, challenging world." (p. 3) More specifically, this monograph present Kierkegaard as 'a prophetic voice' that speaks directly into contemporary issues within the 'emerging' and missional church as it faces questions about truth, knowledge, ethics, and faith in both a critical and constructive way. The book sheds great light on Kierkegaard's continued relevance for theological reform and ecclesial renewal of so-called postmodern forms of Christianity today as it continues to disentangle itself from its fundamentalist and modernist moorings.

The panel—moderated by Matthew Wilson (doctoral student, Baylor University)—will consist of three reviewers, the author, and a moderator. We have assembled an excellent cast of characters for our panel: Dr. Sylvia Walsh (Scholar in Residence, Stetson University), Dr. Jason Mahn (Assistant Professor, Augustana College), Silas Morgan (Lecturer, Loyola University Chicago) with a response by the author Dr. Kyle Roberts (Associate Professor, Director of the Master of Arts of Christian thought, Bethel Seminary). Each panelist will speak for approximately 20 minutes each, offering a critical review of the book and focusing explicitly on both the relevancy of Kierkegaard for contemporary theological and political questions, with specific attention to the interpretative manner in which Roberts employs Kierkegaard in this instance. The three reviewers will be followed by a 20-minute response by the author; the presentations and response will, in turn, be followed by a 15-25 minute Q&A session.

The panel's goal is to offer critical assessments of Roberts' use of and argument about Kierkegaard, not so much about the nature of so-called "postmodern Christianity" or about the meaning of "the emergent church". Those important and intriguing questions aside, I believe that the more pressing matters, as they concern Kierkegaard studies (and the questions at stake in the Symposium) are about how and why Kyle employs Kierkegaard as "a prophetic voice". This seems to suggest a number of important, although contested, interpretative choices, not only abut the nature and content of Kierkegaard's theology, but about how Kierkegaard ought to be read 'in our time.' This book review panel, rather than acting as merely a series of summaries of Kyle's book, actually takes up his questions in a full-throated engagement of fundamental questions at stake in this argument.

Moser, Matthew

Matthew Moser
Doctoral Candidate
Baylor University

Daniel Marrs
Baylor University

Prayer as Christological Mode of Existence

Christian prayer is a Christological mode of existence, an activity that not only grows out of, but is in fact constitutive of the Christian life. Through a critical appropriation of the insights of Søren Kierkegaard and Hans Urs von Balthasar, we offer a constructive account of prayer-not as a merely private act of personal, inward spirituality, but as the very form of Christian existence. While Kierkegaard provides a concrete program for Christian prayer as the confession of sin, we turn to Balthasar for a deeper account of how participation in the prayer-full life of Christ reconstitutes the Christian within the rhythms of God's triune life. Balthasar's framing of Christian prayer within that of Christ allows us to reconfigure Kierkegaard's emphasis on the confession of sin: in short, we propose that the confession of sin in prayer is a divine work performed humanly, an activity that constitutes a properly theological anthropology.

Mulder, Jack Edward

Jack Edward Mulder
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Hope College

Chikara Samuel Saito
Hope College

Is Love God? Kierkegaard and the Catholic Tradition on God and Human Love

All Christians must accept that "God is love" in some sense, given the claim's biblical pedigree (1 John 4:8, 16). But the idea that love, especially neighbor-love, is God is a much more controversial claim in the Christian tradition. In his Sentences, Peter Lombard famously wrote that "the very same Holy Spirit is the love or charity by which we love God and neighbor."1 Philipp W. Rosemann calls this claim "theological dynamite" and suggests that it is an important way to understand deeper differences between Protestantism and Catholicism. 2 In his Works of Love, Søren Kierkegaard appears to endorse a doctrine like this when he claims "The love-relationship requires threeness: the lover, the beloved, the love—but the love is God" (WL, p. 121). The Catholic tradition, however, following Aquinas and continuing into the present day, has tended to side against this view. Aquinas instead holds that "we must possess a created disposition of charity which can be the formal principle of an act of love."3 In this paper we will detail Aquinas's view of charity, articulate how Kierkegaard's view differs, and finally consider what prospects might exist for rapprochement.

In contrast to Lombard, Aquinas argues that charity must be a created disposition in order to preserve the voluntariness of human meritorious action. This is because Aquinas is worried philosophically about voluntariness in its own right as well as worried theologically about the concept of merit. Aquinas also finds Lombard's view problematic because he thinks that it imperils aspects of the concept of charity as a virtue.

With his claim that the love in the love-relationship is God, Kierkegaard appears to side more closely with Lombard than with Aquinas. "Just as the quiet lake originates deep down in hidden springs no eye has seen," Kierkegaard argues, "so also does a person's love originate even more deeply in God's love" (WL, 9). Neighbor-love is the echo of what Kierkegaard calls God's infinite redoubling love in which God relates the individual with God, herself, and her neighbor. Martin Andic indicates a place for human agency in Kierkegaard's thought when he writes "our highest perfection is to become nothing but an instrument of divine redoubling." 4 We must forever remain in debt to God in love, since the instrument must not dwell on its own contribution. Given this infinite indebtedness, works of love for Kierkegaard can neither accrue merit nor become a habit (cf. WL, 4, 385).

We close by asking how far the gulf is between the two positions. A promising place to look for some guidance is in St. John of the Cross, where fire is often invoked to explain not just a brief episode of union with God, but also the gradual and purgative transformation of wood that fire brings about so that the whole human being is aflame with love imparted through the Holy Spirit.5


  1. See Distinction XVII, chapter 1, in Peter Lombard, The Sentences: Book 1: The Mystery of the Trinity, trans. Giulio Silano (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2007), p. 88.
  2. See Rosemann, "Fraterna dilectio est Deus: Peter Lombard's Thesis on Charity as the Holy Spirit," in Amor Amicitiae: On the Love that is Friendship, ed. Thomas A. F. Kelley and Philipp W. Rosemann (Leuven: Peeters, 2004), pp. 409-436 at 410.
  3. See Aquinas, Disputed Questions on the Virtues, Question 2, article 2, ed. E. M. Atkins and Thomas Williams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 111.
  4. Andic, "Love's Redoubling and the Eternal Like for Like," in Robert L. Perkins, ed. International Kierkegaard Commentary: Works of Love (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1999), pp. 9-38 at p. 39.
  5. See especially St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night, II.10 in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. (Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1973), p.350.

Ness, Justin

Justin Ness
Ph.D. Student
Northern Illinois University

A Kierkegaardian Narrative in Post-9/11 American Literature

The Kierkegaardian concepts of Angest, Fortvivlelse, and det Absurde can operate as functions of narratological structure, forming a narrative that is uniquely Kierkegaardian. Furthermore, this Kierkegaardian narrative is distinctly present in post-9/11 American literature.

Vladimir Propp, Algirdas J. Greimas, and Claude Bremond each developed a systematic method to assess narratological structure: Propp, taking an extra-diegetic approach, recognized thirty-one functions and seven character-types; Greimas formulated an economized version of Propp's work, pairing micro-functions into macro-function binaries; and Bremond, implementing an intra-diegetic approach, constructed a structural system which dispenses with the notion of a hero/villain opposition.

Propp's method is capable of explaining the Kierkegaardian narrative only incompletely; to do so adequately, Propp's system would require expansion. Greimas's model is even less suitable for this task. Both Propp's and Greimas's systems are immanently resistant to the Kierkegaardian narrative because they are dependent on the hero/villain opposition, an opposition that is fundamentally absent in the Kierkegaardian narrative. For this reason, Bremond's approach is uniquely commensurate to the task of accurately identifying Angest, Fortvivlelse, and det Absurde as narratological functions.

This Kierkegaardian narrative—evinced properly only by means of a narratological structure to which the omission of the hero/villain opposition is intrinsic—becomes distinctly prominent in the literature of a warring, post-9/11 America. Neglecting the narratological function of vengeance—which is prominent in Propp's and Greimas's models—Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2005), Don DeLillo's Falling Man (2007), and Jonathan Franzen's Freedom (2010) each implement the narratological functions ofAngest, Fortvivlelse, and det Absurde.

The methodological development of my paper begins with a synopsis of narratological structural analysis. From this groundwork, I then cast Kierkegaard's concepts of Angest, Fortvivlelse, and det Absurde as narratological functions. Having thus established the holistic frame of reference for the rest of my paper, I then examine each of Propp's, Greimas's, and Bremond's structural systems, detailing each model's capability/incapability to accommodate the Kierkegaardian narratological functions. Upon confirming the commensurability of only Bremond's system, I then demonstrate the Kierkegaardian narrative through Foer's, DeLillo's, and Franzen's novels. My paper concludes with a brief comment on the socio-historical import of the implementation of a Kierkegaardian narrative in post-9/11 American literature.

Omale, Simeon Achonu

Simeon Achonu Omale
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Kogi State University

Fr. Damian Amana
Department of Mass Communication
Kogi State University

The Glorification of the 'Subjective I' in Kierkegaard's Quest for Truth: A Philosophical Appraisal

The Cartesian quest for certainty and desire for creating a firm foundation for philosophical knowledge resonates in most post-modernist rationalist/existentialist philosophy. In Kierkegaard, the role of the 'subjective I' was not only glorified, but established as the epistemic foundation for truth, certainty and knowledge. Thus the 'I' becomes the determinant of the rightness and the wrongness of religious truth, piety and Christian living in such a manner that dogma and Church laws assume meaninglessness. The imperativeness of this teaching and the glorification of this 'subjective I' are obvious; core of which is the rejection of the human need for religious guidance and direction. This invariably questions the relevance of the Church, clergy and human artefacts in the of didactic instruction. This paper interrogates Kierkegaard's philosophy regarding the subjectivity of the 'I' and the question of universality of revealed truth as taught and proclaimed by religious bodies. It is an effort that seeks to critically examine the philosophical problem of subjectivity and objectivity in relation to religious teaching.

Padelford, Walton

Walton Padelford
Porter Professor of Business & Economics
Union University

Kierkegaard and Bonhoeffer on Costly Grace and Cheap Grace

This paper concentrates on the matters of cheap grace and costly grace as developed by the famous German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His work as leader of an underground seminary at Finkenwalde during the dark days of the Third Reich is mentioned. After the closure of this illegal seminary by the Gestapo, Bonhoeffer continued discipling young pastors in a format called the collective pastorates. Several pastors in an area would take advantage of Bonhoeffer's residence in their area to continue studying theology and pastoral care. These collective pastorates were closed by the Gestapo in 1940.

After this, Bonhoeffer obtained a job with the Abwehr, the German military counter-intelligence group. This group was a hotbed of conspiratorial activity against Hitler. Bonhoeffer became involved in this and was eventually arrested and later hanged, in April, 1945.

Bonhoeffer's most famous works are Life Together, Cost of Discipleship (now published as Discipleship), Ethics and Letters and Papers from Prison. In a 1974 article, Bonhoeffer scholar, Geffrey Kelly commented on Søren Kierkegaard's influence on the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He also expounded several important themes from Discipleship, such as: 1. Bonhoeffer's theological lineage through Kierkegaard 2. The falsehood of using grace as a presupposition for a theological position rather than as a result of justification. 3. Cheap grace, costly grace and the proper use and misuse of Luther's teaching and the example of his life.

These three points are developed through Kierkegaard's influence on Bonhoeffer's work. Bonhoeffer identifies himself as following in the Luther-Kierkegaard line of theology in a remarkable piece entitled "The Christian Idea of God."

"In the very same moment when Christ dies upon the cross, the whole world dies in its sinfulness and is condemned. That is the extreme judgment of God upon the world. God himself dies and reveals himself in the death of a man, who is condemned as a sinner. It is precisely this, which is the foolishness of the Christian idea of God, which has been witnessed to by all genuine Christian thinking from Paul, Augustine, Luther, to Kierkegaard and Barth."

Bonhoeffer owned many works by Kierkegaard. His copies of Practice in Christianity and For Self-Examination were heavily marked with notes in the margins. In Practice in Christianity, Kierkegaard tells an imaginary tale about recounting the crucifixion story to a child. Kierkegaard concludes with the child's feeling of horror and desire for revenge upon the perpetrators. The cross is an offense. So Kierkegaard states; "One never comes to faith except from the possibility of offense." Bonhoeffer states that "Without faith no one can know what sin is."

Both Kierkegaard and Bonhoeffer were concerned that the preaching of grace had become simply a doctrinal system. Kierkegaard emphasized that the imitation of Christ was not preached very much, or that it was excluded by the very doctrine of grace which in an extreme form motivates against the imitation of Christ or good works. Bonhoeffer called this phenomenon cheap grace.

Kierkegaard and Bonhoeffer analyze the development of Lutheran theology in very similar ways. In preaching that we are saved by grace through faith, Luther did not mention, nor need to mention, the powerful example of his own life. His was a life of radical discipleship, imitation of Christ, and danger. In other words, Luther's good works were evident. But the following generations of Lutherans (and others) made grace into a principle or a doctrine rather than a life lived in vital faith and imitation of Christ. Bonhoeffer attributes this to a basic weakness in human nature which seeks to find grace on the cheapest terms possible.

Pearson, Lewis Takashi

Lewis Takashi Pearson
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
University of Saint Francis

Gird Your Loins: Reading Kierkegaard and Job

In the Book of Job, there are many frames, characters, speeches, and topics that capture the attention of readers and listeners. For a brief catalog: The book opens with the Lord agreeing to place Job in Satan's power, and it ends with God restoring and increasing Job's prosperity. In between, we hear from Job's wife and friends, we are confronted by an enigmatic stranger who speaks for God followed by God speaking for himself, we witness an increasingly heated exchange of advice and accusation, and we encounter a bestiary containing the likes of Behemoth and Leviathan. In short, the Book of Job brims over with lessons, tensions, and mysteries.

Similarly, Kierkegaard's corpus of writing is full of frames, characters and pseudonyms on the one hand, and lessons, tensions, and seeming absurdities on the other. Understanding and utilizing the former (his frames, characters, and pseudonyms) is crucial in engaging and clarifying much of the latter (lessons, tensions, seeming absurdities).

In this presentation, I suggest that many of the salient features of the Book of Job—often engaged in isolation—pare best understood and resolved when taken together. In particular, a focus on the frames and characters of the book helps clarify the purpose and content of the characters' speeches and actions. I argue that Kierkegaard's practice of pseudonymous writing and his use of indirect communication are themselves repetitions of literary devices and structures in the Book of Job. Thus, learning how to read and fruitfully engage the tensions in Kierkegaard's writings helps one do the same with the Book of Job (and vice versa). I will demonstrate this claim concretely by providing a concise but suggestive exegesis of the Book of Job that accounts for all of the textual features of the book mentioned above—from Satan to Leviathan and everything in between.

Pearson, Thomas

Thomas Pearson
Associate Professor of Philosophy
The University of Texas-Pan American

Was Kierkegaard a Good Lutheran?

The details of Søren Kierkegaard's public religious life are well known. Born in Denmark, where the Lutheran Church was the approved state ecclesial institution, Kierkegaard's family and associates reflected the diversity of contemporary Lutheran expression in nineteenth century Scandinavia. Søren's father was a Herrnhuter Lutheran, a successful businessman convinced he was an even more successful sinner: dour, guilt-ridden, ever fearful of his next transgression against God. His brother, Peter, was an influential and orthodox Lutheran pastor, and a significant theological figure within the Danish Church. Søren's most influential intellectual mentor, J. L. Heiberg, sought to blend a bland Lutheranism with Hegelian aesthetics; his most influential Lutheran pastor, Bishop J. P. Mynster, was a curious sort of rational Pietist; his most influential teacher, Frederick Sibbern, was a scholarly Lutheran tempted by the fading Romantic movement; his most influential friend, Poul Møller, was a Lutheran of the imagination, a poet and a philosopher. In addition, Kierkegaard publicly opposed the happy historicism of Nicolai Grundtvig's popular biblical Lutheranism. The University of Copenhagen, which Kierkegaard sporadically attended from 1830 to his graduation in 1841, rarely cited the works of Martin Luther. Kierkegaard himself notes that he did not read substantially from Luther's writings until 1847, less than decade before his death, and after the publication of much of his output—and what he did read of Luther, he didn't like. Nonetheless, Kierkegaard occasionally spoke of seeking ordination, and securing a pastoral vocation; in 1846, he writes that his "idea now is to qualify for the [Lutheran] priesthood." But by 1846, he had already set his face against the formal and tacit Christianity of the state Church, a starched Lutheranism that Kierkegaard accused of draining the passion (and the truth) out of the Christian life. Among his last works was an "Attack on Christendom," a fusillade he sustained to the end of his life.

So the question remains: was Kierkegaard a good Lutheran?

Based on the bare chronology of his life and published works, the answer would appear to be negative. For one thing, long before Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Kierkegaard accuses Luther of promoting a "cheap grace," of making the Gospel a lozenge for numbing the sin-sick soul. Kierkegaard charges Luther with "levelling" (a favorite epithet of Kierkegaard's throughout the last decade of his life) the Christian through the grace of God, trivializing the authentic Christian life by rendering that grace far too free and undemanding. Kierkegaard calls this "sheer leniency," adding that, "[i]n this way Christianity becomes an optimism anticipating that we are to have an easy life in this world." Kierkegaard is also convinced that Luther, for all the latter's talk of conscience, has abolished genuine conscience. Because of Luther (and Lutheranism), "an attempt has been made to eliminate conscience by introducing atonement in the following manner: You have a God who has atoned—now you may really enjoy life. This is the greatest possible relapse." It would seem these are not the words of one who aspires to be a good Lutheran.

But a close reading of Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers suggests a different conclusion. I will argue that the central motifs of Lutheran theology—Law and Gospel, sinner and saint, sin and grace, faith and works, forensic justification and sacramental embodiment—are dichotomies that represent surprisingly similar dialectical commitments claimed by Kierkegaard. "Sinner and saint," for instance, in the Lutheran theological tradition does not portray a "before and after" condition of the human person separated by some moment of conversion, or by a convenient division of divine labor between prevenient grace and subsequent grace. The Lutheran tradition has typically emphasized that the Christian is always 100% sinner and 100% saint during her entire earthly life. This means that the choices needed to live as authentically Christian are inevitably marked by struggle, by limitations, by partial successes and frequent failures. Such choices routinely require that the formal comfort of objective knowledge be reduced in favor of the personal possession of subjective truth. This is Luther; this is Kierkegaard. There is a sense in which Kierkegaard may be regarded as a nineteenth century Lutheran reformer, seeking to nourish the vital organs of the Body of Christ, organs that were in decay all around him. A careful reading of Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers reveals that if the spirit of semper reformanda—that the Christian Church is forever in need of reforming—is a foundational theme in Lutheran theology, then Kierkegaard was indeed a good Lutheran.

Peirce, Carrie Marjorie

Carrie Marjorie Peirce
Associate Professor
Azusa Pacific University

Kierkegaard and Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine

Woody Allen's most recent film, Blue Jasmine is "the story of the final stages of an acute crisis and a life of a fashionable New York housewife." The film begins in New York and then moves to San Francisco, where Jasmine is forced to take shelter with her sister Ginger after her marriage to a Wall Street financier implodes. Jasmine spends much of her time criticizing Ginger's romances, both with her current boyfriend and with her ex-husband and father of her two children. "Jasmine is in freefall and has to leave behind everything she knows and has expected," Allen writes. "She's entering the realm of absolute unknown, moving from one coast to the other, from one social set to the other, one class to another."

Both Kierkegaard's and Allen's existential worldview engages troubled societies—albeit in different centuries—by responding to the predicament of the existing individual. They are both attentive to the anguish, aspirations, and needs of the individual for realizing an authentic existence. How does Kierkegaard's vision of the stages on life's way inform Allen's portrayal of Jasmine and Ginger, who struggle with lives that are personal, subjective in nature, highly passionate and wildly divergent? What are the differences [and similarities] between these two "philosophers"—Kierkegaard and Allen—and their renderings of a meaningful mode of existence? This paper will examine the evolution of the lives of the two main characters in the film "Blue Jasmine" through the lens of Kierkegaard's stages on life's way.

Kierkegaard's purpose was to awaken the masses from their passive spiritual slumber and to serve God for the sake of this higher principle. In Stages on Life's Way he identifies three stages [or spheres] of existence: the aesthetic, the ethical and the religious. In the aesthetic life, we are ruled by passion. In the ethical life, we are ruled by social rules. And in the religious life, we surrender to an absolute but indeterminate faith in God. We can never be truly free—we are bored, anxious, and despairing—the only way to make life worthwhile is to embrace faith in God, and faith necessarily involves our embrace of the unknowable. We may have faith in God, but we are unable to believe in God. We believe ideas we are unable to prove but we have faith in what is beyond our understanding.

When we realize how impossible it is to live in the ethical sphere we choose to move into the religious sphere of existence. We recognize that authentic existence cannot be attained without God at the center. There is no system, aesthetic or ethical that can truly lead us in the right direction: we need religion, but we need it on a personal level, not a societal one. Faith in God removes the burden of knowing what is "right"—it involves a "purity of heart to will one thing"—the suspension of ethical behavior we normally venerate. This faith allows us to believe our "unethical" action results in a better end. However, we don't have access to this kind of information, only God does—thus we are unable to know if we have passed the test until the test is complete.

Kierkegaard's and Allen's work consider the question, "How should a human being exist?" It is in the conclusions of their work where their philosophical paths diverge:

Kierkegaard:"Faith is the objective uncertainty with the repulsion of the absurd, held fast in the passion of inwardness, which is the relation of inwardness intensified to its highest. This formula fits only the one who has faith, no one else, not even a lover, or an enthusiast, or a thinker, but solely and only the one who has faith, who relates himself to the absolute paradox."

Allen: "'Everyone knows the same truth.' Our lives consist of how we choose to distort it. One person will distort it with a kind of wishful thinking like religion, someone else will distort it by thinking political solutions are going to do something, someone else will think a life of sensuality is going to do it, someone else will think art transcends… well, that doesn't really do it. That's not what you want. …I've always felt you've got to live your life within the context of this worst-case scenario. Which is true; the worst-case scenario is here." … "I took a test in Existentialism. I left all the answers blank and got 100."

Peteet, John Raymond

John Raymond Peteet
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

Gerrit Glas
Professor of Christian Philosophy
VU University Amsterdam

Thomas Josiah Peteet
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Boston Medical Center

Creating Silence: Some Contributions of Kierkegaard to Medical and Psychiatric Practice

"The present state of the world and the whole of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I should reply, 'Create silence'."

Kierkegaard speaks both directly and indirectly to a number of the challenges facing contemporary clinicians. Presenters in this panel explore his contributions: to approaching existential distress, as seen in individuals facing life threatening illness (JP); to understanding self relatedness and its relationship to psychopathology, e.g. in anxiety disorders (GG); and to distinguishing inwardness from mindfulness, now increasingly prescribed to treat the ills of modern medicine (TP).

There is growing recognition both that psychotherapy has an important existential dimension, and that many individuals with life threatening illness experience significant existential and spiritual distress. Yet consensus is lacking about how to respond to these needs. Should clinicians screen for spiritual distress and refer patients to chaplains, or provide care themselves? Should caregivers help patients to find or "make" meaning, or assist them in ways grounded in particular traditions? Or, if existential stances (e.g. hope vs. despair, purpose vs. meaninglessness) are universal, should caregivers attempt to address them whenever they become problematic?

Søren Kierkegaard's dual emphasis on the individual and on the individual's relation to the infinite has at least three implications for approaching existential distress in the contemporary clinical setting. First, interventions need to begin with who the individual is with respect to his or her inner life, and not (as is often the case) with an abstract, theoretical agenda. Second, individuals find authenticity in relating to ultimate reality, which lies beyond them. Helping an individual relate to that reality, rather than to create and live within one of her own making, involves a shared openness to transcendent value and vision. Third, the suffering secondary to the uncertainty and renunciation required to contend with the infinite is not only unavoidable, but is indispensible for obviating the fear of annihilation which underlies anxiety about death. While Kierkegaard wrote as a Christian, this presentation will consider these implications in the light of non-theistic wisdom traditions, and use case examples to illustrate how they can help caregivers in the secular setting of the clinic.

Kierkegaard's conceptualization of self relatedness (the self as itself a form of relatedness, as in Sickness unto Death) sheds helpful light on our understanding of psychopathology. Psychopathology is not just the expression of a disordered organ (the brain) but always also and at the same time a way of self-relating, even if the person (sufferer, patient) does not recognize this. The philosophical importance of the concept of self-referentiality lies in its capacity to shed new light on the presumed dichotomy between subjective and objective approaches to psychopathology. Self referentiality can be traced at all levels of human existence, from the biological up to the social and spiritual. It has both subjective and objective manifestations. This presentation will explore the benefits and limits of the application of the notion of self-referentiality to psychopathology, using the case of pathological anxiety as an example.

In recent decades, mindfulness has attracted considerable attention within the medical community because of its potential to help beleagered clinicians enhance their capacities for empathy, equanimity, resilience, meta-cognition and self-awareness. While research actively explores the behavioral outcomes and neurobiological correlates of mindfulness, less attention has been devoted to understanding its relationship to the self and to the spiritual traditions from which it arose. This presentation considers the contributions of Kierkegaard to understanding inwardness, and its relationship to the existential and spiritual dimensions of mindfulness. Is this self best understood as a locus of skills (empathy, communication, ability to be present), a narrative self (who lives out stories, myths, dreams), or a reflective self (who experiences doubt, anxiety, and other existential concerns)? For Kierkegaard, the self's relation to itself involves freedom, passion, and action in the face of infinite possibilities. While a mindful approach emphasizes the virtues of deliberate attention and openness, one informed by Kierkegaard's concept of inwardness values criticality and depth. A newly mindful practitioner dances with his discovering self; a Kierkegaardian wrestles in order to "find the idea for which I will live or die." Examples of encounters with patients facing major life challenges illustrate the relevance of the difference between mindfulness and inwardness in providing clinical care.

Through the panel discussion, each speaker will draw on his clinical experience in psychiatry (JP, GG) and internal medicine (TP) to address the relevance of Kierkegaard's conception of existential distress, self-relatedness and inwardness to contemporary medical practice.

Pierce, Brandon

Brandon Pierce
University Avenue Church of Christ

Preliminary Investigations into the Relationship between Kierkegaard and St. John Climacus

What is the relationship of Kierkegaard and his writings to the historical St. John Climacus? How does this historical investigation bear upon the contemporary significance of Kierkegaard's thought? This paper seeks to investigate the historical and theological connections between Kierkegaard and the namesake of Kierkegaard's most famous pseudonyms. A preliminary historical investigation does not reveal any surreptitious motives in the use of the name 'Climacus' that is not already assumed in Kierkegaard scholarship. Nevertheless, a comparative glance into the writings of both authors prompts a theological investigation into the relationship between the two yields an interesting look into Kierkegaard as a receptor of the Christian ascetic tradition, and his attempt to rethink the theology of the ascetic tradition in an increasingly secular world. It is my argument that, despite his sometimes ambivalent approach to monasticism, Kierkegaard latches onto significant themes in ascetic theology as vantage points for his critique of Christendom and as plausible avenues, properly adjusted, for a reconstructed Christianity. I argue that Kierkegaard can be seen as a thinker wrestling with the uncompromising theology of the ascetic tradition in the context of a world quickly becoming like our own.

The ascetic tradition in Christianity has become an increasingly popular resource for Christianity today. The language of spiritual discipline is a hallmark of the literature of contemporary Christian spirituality. The appeal is that the ascetic tradition provides a basis for rethinking Christianity outside of the boundaries of traditional ideological models throughout the spectrum of Christendom. If Kierkegaard can be seen as an ascetic theologian for a modern and postmodern world then his thought can be beneficial not only as a synthetic reproduction of ascetic thought for a (post)modern age, but also as a pathway for Christians disaffected by a compromised Christendom.

The paper will begin with an investigation into the historical circumstances of Kierkegaard's contact, familiarity with, and use of the name Climacus. The guiding question here will be whether Kierkegaard intends anything intentionally significant beyond a superficial symbolic use of this name. My study concludes in the negative. In the course of this investigation several theological themes, and even apparent quotations and allusions, appear that link Kierkegaard to Climacus on a theological level. This leads the paper into a theological investigation concerning the influence John Climacus may have had on Kierkegaard's overarching thought. The paper will conclude with some insights into the possibility and potential for reading Kierkegaard as an ascetic theologian for today. The paper is intended to be preliminary in the sense that it is does not purport to provide a comprehensive investigation into either the historical or theological connections between these two figures. Nevertheless, the investigation does yield grounds for the reading of Kierkegaard as deeply influenced by the ascetic tradition and even as someone who sought to synthetically reproduce ascetic thought in a form that was possible in the constraints of an industrialized, modern, and now postmodern culture. In this vein the academic study of Kierkegaard might also be reinvigorated by an appreciation of the ascetic roots of his thought on classical themes like virtue, vice, passions, and renunciation.

Piety, Marilyn Gaye

Marilyn Gaye Piety
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Drexel University

Encountering the Truth: Kierkegaard's Existential Mysticism as a Corrective for the "New Atheism"

What is the essence of the religious life? Is religion in general, or Christianity in particular, essentially at odds with the modern world view? That's what the so called "new atheists," would have us believe. But are they correct?

There are certainly some forms of religiousness that are fundamentally anti-modern, but not all forms of religiousness are like this. I will argue that Kierkegaard's philosophy belongs to a mystical tradition that presents us with a model of religiousness that is essentially compatible with the modern scientific world view and that moreover, it provides believers with ammunition they can use to defend themselves against the attacks of contemporary atheists.

The core of Kierkegaard's view of Christianity is subjective experience in the sense of the individual's encounter with God in the person of Christ. It is this encounter, and the transformation it effects in the existence of the believer that serves as the core of religious life for Kierkegaard, not official Church doctrine or dogma, no matter how important these latter may become in the life of the believer.

There is a technical term for religiousness that is based on experience rather than doctrine. It is "mysticism." Why is such religiousness viewed as mystical? Because the content is fundamentally ineffable. The content of the encounter with God in the person of Christ is probably best articulated as experiencing God as love. The believer is left to puzzle out for him or herself, however, what epistemological commitments that experience entails. It does not, for example, obviously entail belief in the supernatural in the sense that so disturbs the new atheists. The only belief it obviously entails is the belief that God is love and that love is thus what is required of the believer, both in terms of his relation to the Creator and to creation. These beliefs are in no conflict whatever with the precepts of the modern scientific world view.

The view that Kierkegaard was essentially a mystic may strike some as odd. There's very little scholarship on Kierkegaard's relation to mysticism. That's not surprising. What few explicit references he makes to mysticism tend to be pejorative. I will argue, however, that these references are to a very specific form of mysticism, one that is related to hermeticism and the speculative philosophical traditions.1 This brand of mysticism emphasizes knowledge over experience and is arguably inherently elitist.

There is another strand of mysticism, however, a strand one could call existential mysticism, that is essentially egalitarian and that focuses less on the epistemological content of mystical experience and more on the role of that experience in transforming the existence of the mystic in socially and emotionally positive ways. While speculative mysticism mysticism tends to isolate the individual from the world of everyday experience by effectively removing him from that world, existential mysticism serves as a point of intersection between temporality and eternity that brings eternity into the world of everyday experience and so effects a positive transformation of it.

It is tempting to conclude that Kierkegaard was simply unaware of the complexity of the mystical tradition and that even though his thought can be viewed as consistent with one strand of this tradition, that he was unaware of this fact himself. The following passage from Kierkegaard's journals suggests otherwise: "As with certain bird cries," observes Kierkegaard,

we hear a mystic only in the stillness of the night; for this reason, a mystic generally does not have as much significance for his noisy contemporaries as for the listening kindred spirit in the stillness of history" (JP 3: 2796/Pap. III A 70).2

Kierkegaard often affectionately refers to his "reader." Is this "reader" not "the listening kindred spirit in the stillness of history"? I will endeavor to show that Kierkegaard should be understood as a type of mystic that his particular brand of mysticism when properly appreciated can make enormously positive contributions to the contemporary debates between religious believers and proponents of what has come to be referred to as "the new atheism."

I will begin with a brief introduction to Christian mysticism from the Church Fathers through the medieval German mystics and at Kierkegaard's relation to this tradition. Next, I'll present an account of what I will argue is Kierkegaard's own mysticism and its essential continuity with the earlier Christian mystical tradition. Finally, I will show how Kierkegaard's brand of mysticism can counteract an increasingly pervasive misrepresentation of what it means to be religious.


  1. See, for example, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, Glenn Alexander Magee (Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001).
  2. This entry is not dated but is presumed to have been made around 1840.

Queal, Irving Kyle

Irving Kyle Queal
Head of School
The Covenant School of Dallas

Nurturing Nominalism?: A Kierkegaardian Critique of Christian Schools

Using his Attack Upon "Christendom" as my primary focus, in this project I would like to explore Kierkegaard's analysis and its applicability to so-called Christian schools. The primary question I'm seeking to ask is this: From a Kierkegaardian perspective, are Christian schools—in particular primary and secondary institutions—more likely to produce either serious or superficial followers of Christ in an increasingly post-Christian society? In seeking to ask this question to Kierkegaard, I'm hoping to unveil and apply his insights as to the possibilities, limits, and potential dangers inherent to educational institutions claiming to be "Christian" and/or "Christ-centered".

Reagles, Steve Lee

Steve Lee Reagles
Professor of Religious Studies & Communication
Bethany Lutheran College

As One With/Out Authority: Genius and Kierkegaard's Apologetic Response

Exactly thirty-five years ago Fred Craddock, one of America's foremost theorists and practitioners of preaching, delivered the Lyman Beecher Lectures on preaching at Yale University's Marquand Chapel. In his lectures, later published as Overhearing the Gospel [Hereafter OG] [St. Louis, Chalice, 2002], Craddock examined the work of Søren Kierkegaard for the insights he might provide preachers communicating to contemporary audiences. For Craddock, Kierkegaard was critically important because his work dramatically addresses what was a major problem facing the post[?]-Christian world: "the collapse of Christendom means the church's loss of the scaffolding of a supporting culture. No longer can the preacher presuppose the general recognition of his authority as a clergyman, or the authority of his institution, or the authority of Scripture" (As One Without Authority. Nashville: Abingdon, 1971, p. 14). Craddock's observations in 1971 are no less true forty years later. Mark Chaves's "The Decline of American Religion?" [2011] indicates that there continues to be "a long-term, slow but discernible, decline in belief in an inerrant bible. … the percentage of people who say they believe that the Bible should be taken literally declined from approximately 40 percent to just over 30 percent" (p. 4). In his "Introduction" to Kierkegaard's The Present Age [herafter PA] and Of the Difference Between a Genius and An Apostle [hereafter ODBGA, 1847], Walter Kaufmann points out that like the contemporary Craddock, "Kierkegaard's central lament is over his age's loss of authority"; "the present age" is more than willing to listen to Christ and Kierkegaard's exposition of biblical teaching about Christ, "provided only [they are] cut and dried a little, milked of [their] unpleasant venom, and… bowdlerized" (P. xxx; p. xv.). In Kierkegaard's words, "The Present Age" would rather listen to "art," to the aesthetic genius of human beings than the apostolic authority of Christ or the apostles in authoritative Scripture. "I have not got to listen to St. Paul because he is clever, or even brilliantly clever; I am to bow before St. Paul because he has divine authority…" (ODBGA, p. 70). Now these proclamations of biblical truth are very much a form of "direct" communication, but in Kierkegaard's view, and in Craddock's, they do not speak to an age that has rejected authority. What is required of communicators in "the present age," according to Craddock [as Kierkegaard's interpreter] is indirect communication. Just as Jesus spoke in parables to his own unbelieving age, so today Christian witnesses and, especially, apologists for the Faith, must speaking indirectly to their audiences, using humor, irony, wit, artistry, Socratic, or maieutic method, "a kind of striptease" to garner attention as preparation for direct communication of the Gospel. Only then will those charmed by the genius of human aesthetic, be ready to listen. Both *direct* and indirect communication, then, play pivotal roles for Kierkegaard's aesthetic apologetic, in facilitating "double reflection," which under the power of the Holy Spirit, is the precursor of Saving Faith.

Evoking Craddock's well-known work, As One Without Authority as a suggestive frame for my paper, and using a slashed modification of one word in Craddock's title, "With/Out," in postmodern fashion, I will argue that Kierkegaard's paradoxical indirect/direct method suggests applications for 21st century Christian apologetics. Since our American culture continues to deny biblical authority by its own elevation of human authority in aesthetic modes of "indirect" communication, e.g., the genius" of digital screen art, a Kierkegaardian apologetic responds in kind. Aesthetic apologetics hides its real purpose through indirection as a precursor to direct communication. As a basis for unfolding the nature of Kierkegaard's notion of "indirect" and "direct" communication this paper features the influence of Kierkegaard's direct/indirect communication as Craddock elaborates them in Overhearing the Gospel, his theory of preaching. Kierkegaard's PA and ODBGA, as Kaufmann points out, express many of the central trends of Kierkegaard's theory of indirect/direct communication and provide the basis for this paper's focus on Kierkegaard, as well as the fundamental raison d'être for an apologetic that draws upon Kierkegaard. After laying out Kierkegaard's notion of indirect/direct communication and showing its influence on Craddock's OG I will conclude with a speculative look at its digital application in American screen culture.

Rosa, Evan Christopher

Evan Christopher Rosa
Communications Coordinator
Biola University Center for Christian Thought

Found in the Cosmos: Self and Individuality in the Psychology of Percy and Kierkegaard

In this paper, I approach the psychological thought of Kierkegaard in the work of Walker Percy, viewing both of these in the context of interpersonal and developmental psychology, namely their theories of self. Matters of self individuality are dominant in the theological and existential writings of Kierkegaard and Percy, which suggests psychological interpretation as a promising means for both understanding the deepest woe of the human self (i.e., division, disintegration, that "double-mindedness" which is despair), and offering a prescription for healing, and a model for psychological flourishing.

Gazing upon the disintegrated self through the narrative and character in portions of Percy's The Moviegoer, Love in the Ruins, and Lost in the Cosmos, I explore the relevance of contemporary models of the development, analysis, and healing of the self to Kierkegaard's theological and psychological resources in selections from Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing, and Sickness Unto Death.

Using Percy's narrative data and Kierkegaard's theological conceptual resources, I proceed with a synthetic theory of self consistent with contemporary psychological theorists (e.g., Siegal, Damasio, Schore). I offer here a brief sketch:

Contemporary understanding of the development and differentiation of the self in relation provides an overarching schema for approaching the self in the context of Percy's reliance on and expression of Kierkegaard's theological and personal psychology. Contemporary theorists suggest that individuality and robust selfhood in human persons are gained through perceptual, emotional, and symbolic differentiation from other selves during all stages of development. But a deeply rooted existential trouble follows from disintegrated and unhealthy (perhaps fallen) differentiation that we all inevitably undergo throughout our physical, emotional, and spiritual development. And that is what Kierkegaard calls 'despair' or 'double-mindedness'—which is Percy's 'loneliness' or 'lostness'. As a result, the lost individual is barely an individual—each of us afflicted by a sickness unto death: an illness leaving us disintegrated and double-minded, a struggle of willing both to be found yet not to be found.

In addition to a synthesis of Kierkegaard and Percy in psychological context, I develop a conception of being 'found', which, I suggest, is to be placed in relation as self to another self, in the I-Thou relation. We experience a shadow of being found in human relations. We experience the fullness of being found as an exposed and transparent individuality before God.

The modern plight of the soul in its therapeutic, scientific context is a moviegoer—a self in an epistemological mode more at home in objectifying and criticizing the world than being found by another in it. A self in hiding is barely a self. And so the self is only psychologically and religiously healthy when it is found in vulnerable, transparent, and personal relation. In these ways, Kierkegaard and Percy are partnered diagnosticians of an ancient curse in its modern fullness: a society of selves lost to each other, caught up in an antic search for meaning, ironically having accounted for everything in their scientific systems except the individual self. This diagnosis is validated by contemporary theorists of attachment, interpersonal psychological development, and affective neuroscience.

To recover a unified, psychologically integrated self is to be found as a single-minded individual, which entails relation to a Self, perfectly unified and integrated. The psychologist would agree. Our individuality is available only when we can be found by and searched out by other found selves, and ultimately, the perfectly found and finding divine Self.

Royal, C. Ashley

C. Ashley Royal
Chief Judge, Senior Lecturer in the Dept. of Philosophy, Adjunct Professor of Law at Mercer Law School
United States District Court, Middle District of Georgia; Mercer University Philosophy Dept.; Mercer Law School

Practice in Evangelicalism

This paper will address the question about whether Søren Kierkegaard is a thinker for our time. The answer is yes. I will show that Kierkegaard's critique of 19th century Danish Christendom and Hegelian philosophy is relevant to contemporary evangelicalism.

To answer the question, I will first identify some of the major characteristics of evangelicalism. To do this fairly and without caricature, I will borrow a term from Heidegger and describe how evangelicalism is "holding sway" or revealing Christianity in 21st century America.

To this end, I will use the term Bourgeois Christianity to describe the way evangelicalism is holding sway. This description has several components. First, evangelicals tend to follow a bourgeois ethic of living a moral life, raising a proper family, working hard, and attending church along with incidental works of piety. This ethic, however, does not generally recognize denying oneself, taking up one's cross to follow Jesus, or loving your neighbor. It follows a Hobbesian version of the Golden Rule: don't do anything to someone else that you would not want them to do to you. Following Tocqueville's description of people who live under equality of conditions, the Bourgeois Christian works hard in the Kingdom of Mammon but not so hard in the Kingdom of God. Their goals are in this life not the next, except that they hope to be in heaven.

Another very important aspect of Bourgeois Christianity is that Christianity is understood according to a Cartesian consciousness. "I think therefore I am" works out as thinking correctly about Christ and Christianity makes me a Christian. From this consciousness flows several problems, not the least of which is theological correctness. It also produces what Merold Westphal said SK meant by the herd: "the disease that occurs when people only incompletely adhere to Christianity, retaining its metaphysics while repudiating it morality." This consciousness also produces a disengaged Christianity, and here I follow what Charles Taylor has described as the disengaged self and excarnational living. As the contemporary French philosopher Pierre Manent said: we want to be like angels.

After explaining Bourgeois Christianity, I will address three specific problems: first, the problem of consumerism; second, the problem that Rev. Tim Keller, of my denomination, calls clericalism; and third, what Christian Smith identified from the National Study of Youth and Religion as the problem of moralistic therapeutic deism among American youth.

Following SK's approach, I will describe some of the ironies and paradoxes of evangelicalism. For example, that the contemporary gospel message tends to inoculate people from Christianity, not bring them into the kingdom. Also, that Christian teaching tends to result in a Christian etiquette and not a Christian ethic. Further, how weekly sermons even though exegetically based often result in the ear tickling that St. Paul warned against in 2 Tim. 4:3. Finally, how what is supposed to be an incarnational religion becomes excarnational.

I will rely on various books that SK wrote to deal with these issues. Either/Or Vol. 1 is a good antidote to consumerism and the self-focus of our therapeutic age. The notion of subjectivity so prominent in Concluding Unscientific Postscript attacks the problem of the Cartesian consciousness and therapuetic deism as does Judge for Yourselves! Two Ages is helpful in understanding our age, for example the prudence and lack of passion of Marianne Waller and Ferdinand Bergland. Practice in Christianity helps us understand how the established church order can opppose or at least hinder Christian action. Finally, the concise definition of evangelicalism is that it is very worldly. Sickness Unto Death deals with this problem among other stated above. (Along the way, I expect to get some help from Pascal, Tocqueville, Unamuno, Marcel and especially Heidegger.)

Sager, Angela

Angela Sager
Graduate student in doctoral program
Fordham University

Obstacles on the Road to Selfhood: A Reflection on Kierkegaard's Notion of the Demonic

The purpose of this paper is to explore how collective demonic phenomena and the difficulties of being a Christian might affect Kierkegaard's notion of selfhood. Although Kierkegaard thinks an entire culture can be aesthetic (i.e., a society that prevents a person from shaping her character), he does not claim that the demonic can be collective. As Anti-Climacus claims in The Sickness Unto Death, demonic despair "is rarely seen in the world." In contrast, I claim that secularization can lead to a more collective demonic. A culture that is collectively demonic would view humanity as the arbitrator of all ethical values. Furthermore, a demonic culture would underestimate human fallibility and, therefore, reject consciously the need for grace from a higher power.

In order to become a fully-formed self, Kierkegaard claims that a person must become transparent to God through accepting Christian grace. However, a person must struggle to become a complete self. Many people misrelate to the Good (i.e., God), which means, according to Kierkegaard, that they are in despair. A person can misrelate to the Good by lacking a life-view which gives a person a sense of existential identity. While Kierkegaard diagnoses certain individuals as aesthetes, he believes also that an entire culture could be spiritless. In Two Ages, Kierkegaard shows how pervasive aestheticism can prevent an individual from achieving selfhood. Most importantly, an aesthetic society does away with the offense of Christianity when everyone in that society considers themselves to be "Christian."

Even though a person must shape her identity in order to achieve selfhood, she must accept also that she falls short of ethical perfection. Such a person attains selfhood when she makes the move of faith and accepts grace through the God-man. If she refuses to submit to God, however, she misrelates demonically to God. Unlike the aesthete who does not shape her life in light of a higher ethical ideal because she lacks knowledge of the Good, the person who experiences demonic despair knows that the highest Good is God but refuses to submit to him. In demonic despair, she either strives to give herself existential value or openly rejects God's goodness.

Although Kierkegaard does not consider collective demonic phenomena, I maintain that a secular society can be considered demonic when it openly or militantly rejects the need for Christian grace and therefore prevents a person from moving into Religiousness B. Members of such a society reject grace from a higher power because they claim that this belief is detrimental to humanity's well-being and progress. One can find Anti-Climacean forms of demonic despair in the work of thinkers like Nietzsche and Sartre. However, certain "New Atheists"—particularly Christopher Hitchens in his book God Is Not Great and Victor J. Stenger in God: The Failed Hypothesis—argue that all forms of religion ought to be rejected because religious notions are inherently immoral. To wit, secular humanism is morally superior to religious doctrine. Despite his interest in radical evil, Kierkegaard does not foresee such a moral argument against God. Overall, Kierkegaard does not seem to recognize the depth and potential cultural forms or influence of demonic despair, as in the cases of totalitarian regimes and nationalism.

Finally, while Kierkegaard thinks that the militant church represents authentic Christianity, a secular society might give a Christian more opportunity to reject grace. Furthermore, in light of Kierkegaard's understanding of imitatio Christi, even a Christian can struggle to remain a transparent self before God. As Anti-Climacus claims in Practice in Christianity, a person's life after accepting grace through Christ looks more like "torment." Given the reality of secularization and the demanding Christian task, a person could backslide into a demonic state of infinite resignation.

Ultimately, true selfhood—by Kierkegaard's lights—is not easily won or maintained. Not only can a person's pride prevent her from reconciling with God, but also the spiritual nature of her culture might serve as a stumbling block. Given this analysis, most people are fragmentary or demonically-twisted selves. Although Kierkegaard stresses the relationship between a single individual and God, we as a society must affirm the value and existential need for religious faith.

Sands Wise, Jonathan David

Jonathan David Sands Wise
Assistant Professor
Georgetown College

Kierkegaard and Acedia

If Kierkegaard is indeed a philosopher for our age, then that is at least in part because of his clear recognition of the role of acedia, what he often calls despair or boredom, in modern life, and of the importance of stability and obedience in defeating this vice.

The main realm for acedia's operation is the aesthetic, as we clearly see in Kierkegaard's famous depiction in Either/Or. As he has his pseudonym say in the section titled "Crop Rotation,""People of experience maintain that it is very sensible to start from a principle. I will start with the principle that all men are boring," and boredom, he says later, "is the root of all evil," meaning that for the acedic there is nothing worse than boredom. In the same way, the monastic tradition recognized that those who suffer from the vice of acedia, sometimes (mis)translated sloth, or spiritual sadness, restlessly move from one vice to another in an attempt to find relief from their boredom.

Acedia, one of the eight bad thoughts of Evagrius and Cassian and one of the seven capital vices according to Thomas Aquinas, is sadness when faced with the divine goodness in ourselves and others. It is this vice, and this spiritual condition, that Kierkegaard recognizes and describes so well in Either/Or. The pseudonym of "Crop Rotation" gives the perfect acedic advice when he tells us to avoid friendships and all commitments through careful forgetting, for acedia is the opposite of love and the commitment that it requires. As he concludes, in a quote that could well be advice to today's bored leisure class, "The whole secret lies in arbitrariness. People think it requires no skill to be arbitrary, yet it requires deep study to succeed in being arbitrary without losing oneself in it, to derive satisfaction from it oneself." Again, just as the first offspring vice of acedia is lust and an attempt to find meaning in physical pleasures, so the seducer of the "Seducer's Diary" takes on the conquest of Cordelia out of boredom.

Walker Percy was heavily influenced by Kierkegaard, and it is in his depictions of William Barrett in The Last Gentleman and The Second Coming that we get our best picture of Kierkgaard's acedic. Barrett's acedia is evidenced in lust, in restlessness, in a disinterested observance of the world, and in busyness; he is a paradigm case. Seeking to find meaning in physical pleasure and intimacy, he instead feels more separated from others than ever before. Barrett finally decides that he must prove the existence of God, but is foiled in a particularly brilliant and ambivalent way. Finally, after falling in love with a younger girl who also suffers from mental illness, Barrett is forced to simply commit and decide, and in doing so, Percy indicates in a particularly Kierkegaardian vein, finally finds a way out of acedia. The book concludes, "Am I crazy to want both, her and Him? No, not want, must have. And will have."

Barrett is thus not only a picture of Kierkegaard's understanding of aesthetic despair in the face of possibility, but also of the way out of this acedia: commitment and stability. As the monastic tradition well understood, the only solution to this subtle and deadly vice is to stand and fight. If you bustle about in busyness, you are simply reinforcing the vice, even if you are busily doing good. When time has become the enemy, the only way to redeem it is to commit, to stand still, to accept the claim of the apostle, as Kierkegaard puts it in "Of the Difference Between the Genius and the Apostle," as a claim of obedience on your own life. Especially for the person in this psychological condition, which may well be all of us, the only hope is to become like Abraham in Fear and Trembling and commit to the impossible and paradoxical claim.

Having connected the medieval tradition of the vice of acedia with Kierkegaard's understanding of aesthetic boredom and of the way out of acedia, and having used Percy to illustrate both, I will conclude by considering the importance of this psychological insight for today's moral landscape. Acedia, I will suggest, is America's vice: it defines our institutions, our entertainment industries, our economics, and our spirituality. Until we regain the psychological acuity and moral wisdom of Kierkegaard and again learn to commit to the paradoxical claims on our life of love, we will never escape this deadly vice.

Sansom, Dennis

Dennis Sansom
Department of Philosophy
Samford University

The Logic of Irony: An Examination of Kierkegaard's The Concept of Irony with a Critique of Richard Rorty

In his dissertation of 1841, The Concept of Irony With Continual Reference to Socrates, Kierkegaard claims that it is not coincidental that Socrates was both the first ironist and the first subjectivist. Though for two-thirds of the book's dense and often elusive 329 pages, Kierkegaard in detail interprets the Socratic dialogues (and often tendentiously interpreting Socrates from the perspectives of Plato, Aristophanes, and Xenophon), his main intent is by charting the historical development of irony from Socrates, to Hegel, and then to the Romantics, he shows a logic to irony that both reveals its necessity for proper subjectivity but its limitation in knowing the infinite.

Socrates becomes ironical for two reasons. First, he wants to know himself, to know that he is an individual and not just an uncritical reflection of his culture. Second, he wants to refute the intellectual pretension of the supposed "wise people" of his culture. By showing that they have illegitimately equated their opinions with the truth, Socrates makes clear the distinction between the phenomena and essence, and until we see how clear and necessary this distinction is, how incongruent essence is from phenomena, we too gullibly reflect cultural customs as the makers of true personhood. Ironical critique enables Socrates to make this distinction and thereby secure his subjectivity and individuality.

According to Kierkegaard, Hegel picks up Socratic irony and systematizes it into a dialectical reading of culture, which shows the substantive idea of absolute knowing and freedom guiding the specific phenomena of cultural maturation. Though Hegel keeps the distinction between phenomena and essence (between the instances of cultural development from the truth of modern culture), he tilts his system heavily toward the substantive idea, to the point that it is easy to look past the specific phenomena towards the substantive idea of culture. Essence is too easily known and the incongruence between phenomena and essence becomes almost inconsequential. Irony thus is lost in Hegel's idealism, but the Romantics pick it up again (according to Kierkegaard) by stressing the omnipresent (and with some the omniscient) "I" as the essence of the world. With its ironical reading of all experience as a manifestation of the "I", it makes irony the truth of the subjective. In wanting not to become slaves to culture, the Romantic Ironist equates the phenomena of experience with the experience of the subject. It is a subjectivity but without a world, and in the end becomes void of real critical insight and presence in culture. It forgets that irony is a way to truth, not the truth.

It is a way to truth because that which fulfills the emotional yearnings and epistemological quests of the subject is ontologically superior in reality to the subject itself. However, we can only emotionally and intellectually conceive this objective truth through what Kierkegaard calls "controlled irony." This occurs when "the individual is properly situated" toward the infinite, when we know the incongruence of the finite phenomena from essence by knowing the infinite.

Without this proper situating, irony leads either to self-idolization or mockery of all cultural. It self-idolizes by equating the subject with the infinite (as what happen in Romanticism), and it leads to mockery by severing the phenomena from the essence. Either result eviscerates irony of its logic because each erases the distinction between phenomena and essence. Because irony presupposes this distinction, it must keep it, and thus the logic of irony leads to the limits of irony, not its end. Irony yields knowledge by showing the necessity and the incongruence of the distinction between phenomena and essence.

This view of irony propels Kierkegaard to develop his indirect, pseudonymous authorship. Because of the influence of this concept of irony, we would mistakenly interpret Kierkegaard to advance either mere subjectivity without an objective reference or a mockery of any philosophical or theological claim about the infinite. Talk of infinity is not impossible or silly, but it is difficult and must be done cautiously, and irony is a successful way to do it.

With this understanding of irony, I critique the way the contemporary philosopher Richard Rorty uses irony, showing that his use of irony (in which he severs essence from phenomena by denying essence altogether) is actually the end of irony because what he does with irony is closer to mockery than genuine irony. Consequently, instead of promoting individual freedom established in the subjectivity learned from the ironical point of view toward culture, he actually undermines it.

Shields, Jon Kara S.

Jon Kara S. Shields
Graduate Student
Yale Divinity School

After the Manner of Women: Kierkegaard and Madonna Lactans

Forty-odd years ago Christine Garside questioned the value of Kierkegaard's moral philosophy for women readers. Her simplified exegesis did not disentangle Kierkegaard's own views of sexual difference from those of his pseudonyms, nevertheless, she raised a valuable assessment question for any putative Christian thinker of our time: can a woman be Good in the same way as a man? Garside argues that a woman who studies Kierkegaard will inevitably reject either his views on woman's nature or the applicability of his moral theory to herself. "A woman cannot, qua human being, appropriate [his] work, as it turns out in many ways to be a study of man." (Garside, 1971) This problem has continued to capture women readers of Kierkegaard, e.g., "When 'That Single Individual' Is a Woman" (Walsh, 2000) and "Yes, a woman can exist" (Bertung, 1997).

Can Kierkegaard help me (understand how) to be a good woman? Kierkegaard was interested in women of virtue, or perhaps, women who knew themselves to be in untruth and took appropriate and courageous (in)action based on this inward conviction. But within Kierkegaard's works there are no convincing female characters. As readers our view of the woman as subject is always (at least) secondhand. Kierkegaard's use of pseudonyms can be seen as an attempt to jumpstart the moment of collision, to confirm in narrative the entrance into the "compression chamber of individuality." Even those women whom he describes positively as prototypes of religious devotion remain objects of (male) study instead of subjects at the moment of crisis; they remain didactic tools rather than narrative subject-experiences. Kierkegaard's focus on particularity, on the historically and culturally situated character of religious knowledge and choice suggests that Kierkegaard's failure to provide a female subject-narrative reinforced the idea that women were non-reflective and incapable of the double reflection essential to true religious life.

In my search for a female subject-narrative Fear and Trembling's Mary stood out as a victorious or fulfilled woman whose faith, according to de Silentio, was no less than a man: "Who was ever so great as that blessed woman?" In this paper I read selections from Fear & Trembling alongside entries from Kierkegaard's journals including his vehement opposition to "the propagation of the species." These passages invite an imaginative discourse on the ontological significance of embodied human maturation during pregnancy, birth, and infancy. In addition they lead me to question Kierkegaard's casual dismissal and undervaluing of parental love in contrast to romantic love and friendship.

Through the Madonna Lactans I argue that reintroducing a positive appropriation of the natural/embodied component of human existence and the development of self redresses some of the negative implications of essentialism present in Kierkegaard's work without undermining the social categories of masculine and feminine or the demand for balance in self-assertion and submission. Specifically, this revision would highlight the divergences within the sexes and reject the idea that women are predestined to a lower synthesis, a lesser fulfillment of human purpose, than men. It would further suggest that for some individuals the experience of birthing and/or parenting serves as an occasion for ethical-religious collision and revelatory moment. Furthermore, I argue the parental love remains a challenging, but necessary part of the works of love. Like human independence and maturation of self, parental love is biologically instigated, but it need not, and should not, remain predominantly motivated by the body as "an other" perceived as an exterior manipulator of the conscious self. Just as for Kierkegaard the love of God and love of the other are not alternatives, but ultimately coincide, so I argue natural and spiritual existence and identity ultimately coincide.

Reflection on human beings as birthing and birthed individuals is, therefore, one preamble to continuing the appropriation of the religious life which sits at the center of Kierkegaard's authorship. In my conclusion I show how my answer to Garside's proposal not only revises Kierkegaard's understanding of women's natures or sexual difference, but reframes human nature (with respect to all sexes, genders, etc.) in a way which remains consistent with Kierkegaard's understanding of further existential development of self in and through a transformative relationship with the Living God who is beyond understanding.

Smith, Troy Wellington

Troy Wellington Smith
Graduate Teaching Assistant
University of Mississippi

The Application of Kierkegaard in Percy's The Last Gentleman: A Christian Thinker contra Hegelian-Faustian Scientism

"If it were the same with thinkers in our day," writes Søren Kierkegaard's pseudonym Johannes Climacus in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript, that, like the Greeks and early Christians, they were also passionate existing people, "pure thinking would have led to one suicide after another, because suicide is the only existence-consequence of pure thinking…" (308). Thus does Kierkegaard take issue with the objectivism of Hegelian speculation; for him, it is tantamount to the self-annihilation of the existing individual (Marino 19). Walker Percy had a similar complaint about the dominant worldview of his time. He explains in an interview:

One big difficulty for me in reading Kierkegaard was that I had no philosophical training at all, especially about Hegel or the German idealists…. I said, well, what difference does it make whether he successfully demolished Hegel or not, until I realized that you could very successfully extrapolate his attack on Hegel against what we might call scientism. The same thing he said about the Hegelian system might be said about a purely scientific view of the world which leaves out the individual. So once I made that extrapolation from Hegel, whom I cared nothing about, to a whole, scientific, exclusive world view, it became very relevant. (Conversations 117)

In Percy's novel The Last Gentleman, Dr. Sutter Vaught makes the same chilling connection between suicide and abstract thought (that Climacus made above), writing in his casebook, "Suicide [is] a consequence of the spirit of abstraction and of transcendence." In the same entry, Dr. Vaught goes beyond Climacus to suggest that "lewdness [is the] sole portal of reentry into [a] world demoted to immanence" (345). In his lewdness, Dr. Vaught, then, is analogous to the Faust described by the aesthete A in his "Silhouettes" essay of Either/Or: "His doubting soul finds nothing in which it can rest, and now he grasps at erotic love [Elskov], not because he believes in it but because it has an element of presentness in which there is a momentary rest and a striving that diverts and that draws attention away from the nothingness of doubt" (206). Just as Faust pursues aesthetic immediacy in Margarete, Dr. Vaught sought the sensuous in the exploitation of his (similarly-named) now ex-wife Rita. Although he is less conscious of his despair than Dr. Vaught, Will Barrett, the novel's protagonist, is nonetheless in danger of following his father, and perhaps Dr. Vaught, into suicide via the abstraction. This Hegelian, speculative tendency is reified in his prized telescope; tellingly, like the System, "[i]t was German" (29). Moreover, as Climacus recounts, astronomy is the very science that Kierkegaard's existentialist exemplar Socrates—the antipode to Herr Professor Hegel—is said to have given up (83). In fact, Climacus states that Socrates "is supposed to have discovered within himself…a disposition to all evil," and that "it may even have been this discovery that prompted him to give up the study of astronomy, which the times now demand" (161). Will is saved from the perdition of scientism only when he decides to be "through with telescopes…and the vasty galaxies" (358), and this existential resolve is evident when on the last page of the novel he heroically intervenes through intersubjectivity to forestall Dr. Vaught's planned suicide: "'Dr. Vaught, I need you. I, Will Barrett—' and he actually pointed to himself lest there be a mistake, '—need you and want you to come back'" (409). Through a close reading of Percy's second novel, this paper will illustrate the vital influence of Kierkegaard's pseudonymous authorship on an eminent Christian novelist of our time.

Works Cited

Stark, Michael D.

Michael D. Stark
Adjunct Professor of Philosophy
Trinity Christian College

Subjectivity as Virtue: Kierkegaard's Virtue Epistemology

Whether through academic analysis or popular opinion, Kierkegaard's epistemology is commonly interpreted as fideistic. The purpose of this research is to reevaluate the epistemic themes in Kierkegaardian philosophy. On the condition of Kierkegaard's focus on the developing self and his focus on subjectivity, I argue that Kierkegaard's epistemology can be classified under virtue epistemology.

Virtue Epistemology

While not abandoning the traditional questions regarding the nature of knowledge, its limits, the formation of beliefs, and the issue of certainty, virtue epistemology prioritizes what compromises a good character over what type of knowledge is right or wrong.

Following the example that the moral virtues establish for the moral actions, the character of the knower, in conjunction with the methods used to acquire knowledge, is the precursor to what constitutes true knowledge and justified belief. The prospect of gaining understanding of some thing ought not be desired specifically for the purpose of elevated esteem. While such motivation is not prima facie wrong, it limits the character of the knower to a narrow view of epistemology. The virtuous knower ought to recognize the importance of caring about how knowledge influences oneself and the world, understand the longevity of knowledge for personal development, and prioritize the subjective appetite for certain beliefs. That is, the individual's experience and character dispositions play a vital role in what one does with knowledge, and also how that knowledge will subjectively be applied to make the individual a better person.


The intellectual virtues purported by contemporary virtue epistemologists include the love of knowledge, humility, and practical wisdom, amongst others. It will be argued that subjective truth, and the subjective pursuit of knowledge, should be added to the list of intellectual virtues. Contemporary epistemology often narrows focus on obtaining knowledge and truth in the objective sense. While the value of objectivity should not be diminished, its prioritization has overshadowed the subjective role of the individual knower. Subjective reasoning toward knowledge is both active and personal and will provide the aspiring knower motivation for obtaining knowledge, truth, and will play a significant role in belief formation. This is due to, contrary to objective knowledge, subjectivity's embracing of one's personal experience and human emotions. One can arrive at truth through "committed action that involves the whole person—the emotional, passionate nature as well as the intellect." The personal experience of the individual is crucial to knowledge because experience subjectively applies learned material in a manner which develops the person in a subjective fashion. Kierkegaard's subjectivity is intentional. Whatever is learned is intentional—a willed movement toward an object.

The pursuit and acquisition of knowledge should propel the individual into reflection and action. As Kierkegaard writes, "the only fundamental basis for understanding is that one understands only in proportion to becoming himself that which he understands." Subjectivity is valuable as it forces the individual to recognize that one is at the point of taking a risk. Because knowledge and truth are so often connected with one's personal beliefs (although not necessarily identical), the arrival at knowledge is where one realizes that one's beliefs may be strengthened or augmented, both of which have the ability to change the development of the individual.

Kierkegaardian Virtue Epistemology

With the first premise articulating that a knower ought to possess a virtuous character, and the second reinforcing the pertinent nature of subjective truth and knowledge for the development of the knower, the conclusion that therefore follows is that subjectivity be embraced as one of the intellectual virtues. Kierkegaard's focus on subjectivity, especially in *Philosophical Fragments* and *Concluding Unscientific Postscript*, in addition to his primary philosophical endeavor to help the individual self develop, make him best categorized as a virtue epistemologist, not a fideist. With this, two examples will be shown how subjectivity leads to Christian truths. First, it will be shown that subjectivity better interacts with "paradoxical" issues such as the incarnation. Second, it will be argued that the exposition of Genesis 22 serves as the exemplar of self development via Kierkegaardian virtue epistemology. This example, often cited in support of Kierkegaard's fideism, exemplifies not only the Self's growth in relation to itself, but also as part of the double movement away from human depravity and into relation with God. Abraham's "leap of faith" is better understood as a leap into development. Through that learned experience, Abraham took what he knew of God, applied it to his subjective experience, made and intentional movement which led to an outcome which earned him the title 'knight of faith.'

Stetler, Emily

Emily Stetler
Assistant Professor of Theology
Mount St. Mary's University

Survival and the Temptation to Despair: Kierkegaard and the Traumatized Self

In The Sickness Unto Death, Kierkegaard elaborates on two kinds of despair: the despair not to will to be oneself, and the despair to will to be oneself. While Kierkegaard's descriptions of each type of despair are lengthy and complex, each represents a warped sense of relationship to and knowledge of the self. In the despair not to will to be oneself, the person lacks sufficient and proper self-knowledge: she has, perhaps, become distracted and does not engage in self-reflection. Alternately, she has reflected upon herself and dislikes herself so much that she wishes to be someone else instead of herself. In the despair to will to be oneself, on the other hand, the person has an excessive awareness of himself, to the degree that he can see only himself and nothing or no one else. While the person in the first kind of despair lacks a right relationship with herself, the person experiencing the despair to will to be oneself (which Kierkegaard also calls "defiance") refuses to relate to anything outside of himself. In both kinds of despair, that is, the person experiences selfhood and what is outside the self in a distorted manner.

This paper will put Kierkegaard in conversation with trauma theory, which also concerns itself with a person's sense of self. Trauma vitiates the self, often impairing a person's ability to relate to herself and to her life experiences in a coherent and meaningful way. Moreover, trauma theory also examines the way that traumatic events impact the survivor's ability to form relationships. Insofar as both discuss selfhood and the person's impaired ability to relate to herself and to others, then, Kierkegaard and trauma theory share common concerns. Clearly, though, the two approach these topics from markedly different perspectives: Kierkegaard does so from discussions of sin and a person's need to be rescued by God from sin, despair, and despair over sin. Trauma theory, on the other hand, examines the vitiated self in order to understand the psychological, neurological, and behavioral effects of trauma on victims, with the goal of enabling survivors to overcome these wounds and to become reintegrated as persons. Yet this paper will contend that closer examination of Kierkegaard's two kinds of despair can provide insights into the struggles trauma survivors face in recovering from their scars. Pushed toward despair not by their own sin, but by their victimizers' sin, trauma survivors must overcome the shame, pain, and fear that can cause them to wish not to be themselves. Likewise, they must find ways once again to be able to be vulnerable to others by being in relationship with them.

While Kierkegaard does not and cannot provide us with a complete approach for responding to trauma and caring for victims, he nonetheless offers insights into the struggle to be a self that relates rightly to himself and to others. While this is a struggle that all people must face, survivors of trauma wrestle with it in a unique way. Putting Kierkegaard into dialogue with trauma theory can shed light on this way and lead to new possibilities in thinking about and coping with trauma in our own time.

Still, Todd D.

Todd D. Still
Hinson Professor
George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

Kierkegaard's Perception and Appropriation of Paul: An Evaluation

Sykes, John

John Sykes
Wingate University

Faith as Therapy: David Lodge's Use of Kierkegaard

The novels of British writer and academic David Lodge have typically reflected the Roman Catholic milieu of his formative years. Readers of Walker Percy register the striking coincidence that Lodge's first novel, The Picturegoers, appeared almost simultaneously with Percy's The Moviegoers, and both have to do with the nature and consequences of Christian faith. However, it was not until his 1995 novel Therapy that Lodge took up the work of Percy's major theological teacher on the nature of faith, Kierkegaard. Lodge's protagonist, a largely self-taught script writer, stumbles upon Kierkegaard during a midlife crisis, and to his surprise finds himself re-evaluating his relationship with his first girlfriend, a Catholic from whom he parted because of the strictures of her sexual morality. Finding Maureen and learning her story becomes part of his therapy, as does his simultaneous reading of Kierkergaard.

For Lodge as for Percy, reading the great Dane has a psychological benefit. Reading Kierkegaard is therapeutic in the sense of bringing to light hidden psychological structures. Tubby Passmore feels liberated insofar as Kierkegaard helps him understand himself. He spies himself in Kierkegaard's "the unhappiest man," for example. However, the term that becomes central in Tubby's quest for meaning is not only psychological but also religious: faith. Lodge's protagonist comes to see that he cannot escape his state of paralyzing dread without belief in a purposeful future. With Tubby, we learn that Maureen continues to be sustained by Christian faith, though its shape has changed significantly since its teen-aged formulation. And by the end of the novel, Tubby has also found the confidence to move on with his life. The question is whether Tubby's "faith" is Christian faith, as Maureen's seems to be.

I intend to argue that the two dimensions of faith in Kierkegaard's work, faith as trust and faith as belief, have been both attractive and problematic for recent novelists. The "trust" side of Kierkegaard's use of the term is psychologically compelling and lends itself to "therapeutic" ends that have no specific theological component, and may indeed be functionally agnostic. Yet for Kierkegaard himself, as he lays it out in The Point of View for My Work as an Author, this "therapeutic" notion of faith takes its proper role in his larger scheme to show his reader that only a Christian faith—that is faith as belief in Christ—is truly sufficient to attain the therapeutic goal of sustaining the self. Lodge walks the line between these two Kierkegaardian senses of faith in Therapy.

Tazelaar, Mark

Mark Tazelaar
Professor of Philosophy
Dordt College

Receiving Isaac Back with Joy: Søren Kierkegaard, Jean-Luc Marion, and a Phenomenology of Sacrifice

The significance of Kierkegaard in the work of continental philosophers like Heidegger, Derrida, and Levinas, is well known. Less (and perhaps not at all) recognized is Kierkegaard's significance for the work of contemporary French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion. In fact, it's far from clear that Marion himself recognizes this. In this paper I propose to explain and defend the importance each has for the otherbs work. A recently published lecture by Marion, entitled "Sketch of a Phenomenological Concept of Sacrifice," the penultimate section of which treats the "trial of Abraham," will serve as the basis for my remarks.

Remarkably, Marion cites neither Kierkegaard nor Fear and Trembling (FT) anywhere in his paper. This failure is remarkable not only with respect to the aforementioned treatment of Abraham within the context of Marion's paper, but also because FT serves, as Ed Mooney suggests, as the "Ur-text" for contemporary philosophy of religion. I will try, then, briefly, to identify some reasons that might account for Marion's neglect of Kierkegaard, despite the importance of FT for the continental tradition. These reasons have to do, I will argue, with the ways that Kierkegaard has been (mis)interpreted and (mis)appropriated by those most influential on Marion's development (e.g., Derrida and Levinas).

I will at greater length, and as the main portion of my paper, show how and why FT is significant for Marion's work (and vice versa). Because I will assume some familiarity on the part of the audience with FT, I will begin by introducing Marion's work on gift, givenness, and sacrifice (particularly as treated in this lecture).

Marion's treatment focuses on determining a phenomenological concept of sacrifice, inscribed within the framework of a phenomenology of the gift (a topic hotly debated by Derrida and Marion). Indeed, Marion argues that sacrifice, properly conceived (that is, according to its phenomenological concept), might allow us to solve the aporia of the gift. This solution also involves freeing the concept of sacrifice from its more common sense, in which sacrificing is equivalent to, calls for, or even requires destruction. I say "freeing" because for Marion the concept of sacrifice (as well as the concept of gift) has been bound to an economic model of exchange. On such a model, gifts quickly become debts, and sacrifices are paybacks.

Marion proposes a "reduction" of the gift to the process of its givenness—suspending the gift given in a way that allows its "given" character to appear. In other words, it involves making the gift transparent anew as gift. This, Marion suggests, is the phenomenological function of sacrifice (which presumably could then be distinguished from other "sacrificial acts," in much the same way as Kierkegaard distinguishes between Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac and the sacrifices made by various tragic heroes). The point of sacrifice, phenomenologically conceived, is not to destroy, undo, or transfer a gift already given, but rather is the gift's return to the givenness from which it proceeds as gift. Sacrifice, then, "does not separate itself from the gift but dwells in it totally."

After explaining these points in more detail, I will compare them to FT, particularly to the "double movement" characteristic of the knight of faith, as Kierkegaard describes it. Marion's "reduction" allows both the original giver's gesture (givenness) to rise again to phenomenality (visibility), and the recipient of the gift to recover the posture of reception. In Kierkegaard's terms, it makes it possible for Abraham "to receive Isaac back with joy"—through the act of sacrifice. Approaching FT from the angle of gift, givenness, and sacrifice (phenomenologically understood) should help us to better appreciate Kierkegaard's skills in phenomenological analysis (an important consideration for debates on whether Kierkegaard can or ought to be counted as a phenomenologist). Furthermore, following Marion's lead allows us not only to restore both Isaac and Abraham's love for Isaac to the central place they command in a proper understanding of Kierkegaard's work (absent from Levinas and Derrida's interpretations), but also to recognize the eschatological dimension of FT (also missed by Levinas and Derrida).

Nevertheless, Marion's "reduction" softens features of the Abraham story to which any faithful and properly phenomenological interpretation must rigorously attend, and to which Kierkegaard himself was so sensitive. Among these features are: a) the paradox that Abraham's act of love for Isaac can look like an act of hate (the pathos of inwardness disguised by an outward "shriek of horror" at the spectacle of Abraham raising the knife; also Luke 14:26), and b) the affirmation of faith as an act of humility in expectation (which must be recognized in any phenomenological account sensitive to faith's eschatological sense).

Terrill, Jerry Lee

Jerry Lee Terrill
Associate Professor of Counseling
Houston Graduate School of Theology

Kierkegaard's Influnce in the Lives of J. Patocka and V. Frankl

The writings of Søren Kierkegaard provide a theological and philosophical foundation as experienced in the life of a tragic hero and a knight of faith. It will be shown that the ethical dimensions as experienced by Abraham in Fear and Trembling provide a core ontology in the lives of Jan Patocka and Viktor Frankl. Jan Patocka developed a phenomenological, Kierkegaardian, existential approach in his writings and lectures that enabled him to undergo his interrogations by the Czech communist secret police. The World War Two concentration camp experiences of Viktor Frankl led him to develop a Kierkegaardian, existential, noetic approach to discovering meaning under inhuman living conditions. We, as humans, are searching for a spiritual core to transcendence, as seen in the writings of Kierkegaard to reach beyond ourselves in the fully human dimension of the good, the true, and the beautiful in faith and love. Special attention will be given to the lives of Patocka, Frankl, and how Kierkegaard's theology and philosophy, contributes to a transhistorical, phenomenological, existential, meaning centered approach to understanding trauma, especially in the lives of returning veterans and their families.

Tietjen, Mark A.

Mark A. Tietjen
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion
University of West Georgia

Finite Common Sense

Christian philosophers and psychologists alike have found enormous value in two of Kierkegaard's contributions to a Christian view of personhood: first, the definition of the self in The Sickness unto Death as a relational self comprised of dialectical syntheses of finitude and infinitude, freedom and necessity, etc., and second, the well-rehearsed stages or spheres of existence. In my opinion, however, the relationship between these two contributions needs further exploration, a kind of mapping of the one onto the other in all of the variations that are possible. What failure in the relational self is unique to Religiousness A, for example? What kind of despair—defiant or passive—is present in ethical existence? My paper seeks to do some of this mapping work.

If a Christian therapist wishes to make application of the three stages or spheres of existence to his or her clients to clarify both insight into the client's condition and ways to counsel the client accordingly, then close attention must be paid to the variety of possibilities that lie within each of the three main spheres, aesthetic, ethical and religious, as well as what Kierkegaard calls the 'border territories' in between those spheres: irony and humor. Though I am not a therapist, my guess is that many if not most clients will be aesthetes, but which kind, what type? In a few places in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript, the pseudonym Climacus makes mention of a sphere called 'finite common sense,' which he implies is a variety of aesthetic existence opposite 'immediacy.' The aesthete with finite common sense appears to have moved beyond other aesthetes by recognizing the faults of a life motivated primarily by immediate pleasures. This individual interprets "immediacy as comic" and relies instead on shrewd and calculated reasoning, resolved not to "overdo it" on something so fickle as erotic love, for example (CUP, 520). However, this individual merely replaces one finite good for another and in any case still fails to recognize the self has an eternal qualification, and thus no immanent good will ultimately satisfy.

Little attention in the secondary literature has been paid to finite common sense, undoubtedly because Kierkegaard doesn't say much explicitly about it. However, traces of the category can be found in a number of places in Kierkegaard's authorship, and I will explore these in this paper. I will begin my examining the brief discussion of finite common sense in the Postscript. Second, I will consider how we might understand this sphere as it relates to the categories of despair and failures of the self's inward relation in The Sickness unto Death. Third, I will show the connection of finite common sense to a family of counterfeit virtue concepts found through Kierkegaard's authorship that include shrewdness, calculation, 'reasonableness,' and prudence. I conclude by pointing to examples of finite common sense in popular media presentation and by asking briefly what counsel the Christian therapist can give the client in this sphere.

Underwood, Brad

Brad Underwood
Duke University

Kierkegaard and Foucault on Confession and Courage: Towards an Ethic of Freedom

While the "unmasking" nature of Michel Foucault's historical methodology often led him to arrive at derogatory interpretations of intellectual currents and institutions, particularly Christianity, by his own words he was not someone who sought to discount everything. In On the Genealogy of Ethics, he stated, "my point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same as everything is bad. If everything is dangerous, then my position leads not to apathy but to a hyper and pessimistic activism." I concur with James Bernauer, who argues that Foucault's reservations with Christian thinking and practice can be of help to Christian thinkers to ask the question, "How might we live religiously?" Bernauer's appropriation of Foucault rings nicely with the thought of Søren Kierkegaard, who was also concerned, if not obsessed, with this very same question.

In this paper, I show how many of Foucault's problems with the Christian practice of confession can be assuaged by Kierkegaard's account of confession. I argue that Kierkegaard forces Foucault to reconsider Christianity on Foucault's own terms, that things do not have to be as they have always been (or at least as Foucault narrates them), so that the Christian confession becomes a practice that helps initiate a free self and develop the virtue of courage; concerns central for both Foucault and Kierkegaard.

Foucault saw the Christian confessor and penitent in both its lay and monastic setting as given to three dangers. First, he criticizes the paralyzing and illusory importance given to an exhaustive examination, categorization, and even demonization of one's inner thoughts and desires in the attempt to tell the truth about oneself. Consequently, surfaces, actions, practices, and even the common good were deemphasized; stripping Christian confession of its political nature in preference for an obsessive knowledge of one's potential actions. Secondly, Foucault condemned any easy acceptance of harmonious and abstract theological categories that informed confessional language, such as "love", "flesh", or "spirit". He found such categories abstract and poor substitutions for the unharmonious nature of much material reality. Third, Foucault saw Christian confession as promoting the destruction of the self rather than its mastery through inculcating humility through self-renunciation and the unconditional obedience to an authority. Instead, Foucault would promote another form of confession, that of the Greek virtue of parreshia, where one was trained to speak freely and truthfully for the common good of the political community in such a way that risks one's personal security.

Kierkegaard, on the other hand, considers confession both as a private acknowledgment of one's sins (I shall call this confession in its strict sense) and as speaking the truth to public (I shall call this confession in its loose sense) to be fundamentally Christian. In regards to confession in its strict sense, that which Foucault most fundamentally rejects, I think Kierkegaard has ways of getting around each of the reservations that Foucault has listed above. In regards to the first problem, Kierkegaard positions himself as a thinker that is both extremely concerned with self-examination as well as action. In more practical terms, one could say this is the tension between the recluse and the preacher that he speaks of in Self Examination. In regards to Foucault's second concern, I would like to draw from Mike Burns materialist reading of Kierkegaard's "fractured dialectic" to argue that Kierkegaard is anything but given to avoiding disunity or concrete materiality and that this too applies to his understanding of confession. Third, I want to draw on draw on Amy Laura Hall's account of confession in Works of Love and paradoxically Kierkegaard's account of martyrdom. Finally, I will discuss Kierkegaard's concern with confession in its loose manifestation, and argue that Kierkegaard offers a critique to Foucault's virtue of free speaking that holds Foucault accountable to his concern with action. That is Kierkegaard's concern that while one can speak the truth this does not necessarily mean that what can do that which he speaks about. Thus, my paper will use Kierkegaard to give a creative response to Foucault's critique of Christian confession, a pressing intellectual task considering the secular power Foucault conducts in our academic halls.

Valadez, Leticia

Leticia Valadez
Universidad Anahuac Mexico Norte

Arguments in Reference to Mt. 11:30 in the Second Discourse of The Gospel of Sufferings

In the second discourse of The Gospel of Sufferings, Kierkegaard develops a series of arguments to explain the meaning of Christ's words: "My yoke is beneficial and my burden is light" (Mt., 11:30) Using this entry of Scripture, as it happens in his upbuilding discourses, has a religious purpose, specifically to show a description of what an authentic Christian should be. In this discourse, Kierkegaard's conclusion is that in spite of the real and inevitable difficulties of life, these should be faced in a special way by the one who calls himself an authentic Christian. This is what it means that the Christian's burden is, despite all the sufferings, a light burden, and that Christ's yoke is a beneficial yoke.

So what is Kierkegaard's contribution when referring to this passage of Scripture? In this paper I will attempt to analyze Kierkegaard's arguments to get to that conclusion in his discourse, and I will analyze the means he uses to do so, such as examples, comparisons, and analogies; I will also show the concepts and topics given in this discourse.

van Gorder, A. Christian

A. Christian van Gorder
Associate Professor
Baylor University

"Judaism is a Coachman; Muhammadanism is a Groom": Kierkegaard and the Religious Other

In an oft-cited quotation, Kierkegaard wrote that "Christianity is the actual proprietor who sits in the carriage; Judaism is the coach-man; Muhmmadanism is a groom who does not sit with the coachman,but behind." Kierkegaard also wrote about the poetic nature of the Qur'an and saw the Prophet Muhammad as a poet. Comments such as these have encouraged some to claim that Kierkegaard held a dim view of Islam while other citations about the Prophet Muhammad and the Qur'an have been cited to show that Kierkegaard thought that Islam was a weaker rival to Chirstianity. In contrast, Muhammadu Iqbal, and other Muslims, have found Kierkegaard's emphasis on the sacred supportive of their own ideas about authentic spirituality. While citing Kierkegaard quotations of the religious other in their specific context this paper will explore how his views are conversant with the ideas of the religious other as expressed by Muhammadu Iqbal.

Venable, Hannah Lyn

Hannah Lyn Venable
Ph.D. Student
University of Dallas

Situating Melancholy in Kierkegaard's The Concept of Anxiety

The concept of melancholy is displayed in a myriad of different ways throughout the writings of Kierkegaard, from the mouths of his pseudonymous authors to his personal confessions in his journals, making it difficult to pinpoint its true nature. This paper uses Kierkegaard's treatise, The Concept of Anxiety, written under the pseudonym Vigilius Haufniensis, as a way to gain deeper insight into the tenor of melancholy. In The Concept of Anxiety, Kierkegaard searches for the root of anxiety and locates it in the first qualitative leap of humanity, which he defines as the first sin. From this analysis, he argues that anxiety forms the backdrop for all sin, including the first sin and all subsequent sins. A closer look at the text, however, reveals that as time goes on, this anxiety increases, due to the accumulation of sin and guilt from all of history, and deepens into another mood, the mood of melancholy or depression [Tungsind].

Thus, contrary to the usual interpretation of Kierkegaard, I argue that melancholy is more than an individual's struggle with existence, but is intimately tied to our historical environment, steeped in this ever-increasing, ever-deepening anxiety, which Kierkegaard calls melancholy or depression. This link between anxiety and melancholy not only clears away misunderstandings about Kierkegaard's description of melancholy, but it also gives us a fuller appreciation and awareness of our human condition. Such awareness helps us address the issues of depression today and offer support to those currently struggling with it.

Ward, Roger Allen

Roger Allen Ward
Professor and Chair of Philosophy
Georgetown College

Works of Love and Inquiry: An Evaluation of Edification in Kierkegaard and Peirce

Kierkegaard's books of edification like Works of Love present a striking contrast to his indirect arguments in his pseudonymous books. Relying both on scripture and analysis, Kierkegaard challenges readers with the simple but difficult truths of Christian living. Charles Sanders Peirce, the originator of pragmatism and a churchman in his later years, has been helpfully compared to Kierkegaard in terms of semiotic understanding of the self and God. But Peirce, in his own unique way, also attempted to edify the church and the faithful. In this essay I bring Kierkegaard's "Works of Love" into a structural comparison with Peirce's 1908 essay "The Neglected Argument for the Reality of God." The agapism at the root of Peircean inquiry is, I argue, intended to upbuild the faith of scientists as well as the church.

Warren, Brian

Brian Warren
Assistant Professor of Theater
The University of Texas-Pan American

Thomas D. Pearson
Associate Professor of Philosophy
The University of Texas-Pan American

Madness Lies Sanity: Kierkegaardian Paradox in Shakespeare's King Lear

Commentators on Kierkegaar's thought have often made much of his notion of "paradox," and its alleged opposition to the use of reason in discerning the truth embedded in the Christian's life of faith. Paradox and its corollary, the concept of the absurd, are portrayed by these commentators as antithetical to the operation of reason alone in those acts of discernment. Richard McCombs (The Paradoxical Rationality of Søren Kierkegaard) is one such commentator, arguing that Kierkegaard feigned irrationality in his pseudonymous works as a device to promote an alternative and holistic construal of human understanding. As a result, it is frequently assumed that for Kierkegaard, the fundamental claims of Christianity and of human experience, present obstacles that ordinary human reason can neither accommodate nor overcome.

But do these commentators misunderstand what Kierkegaard intends by the term "reason"? Does Kierkegaard really aim to disparage human reason? Or does he seek to replace a certain description of reason, framed as a generic and formal system of thought as articulated in the prevailing Hegelianism of his day, with a different account of reason, one that treats reason as deeply subjective state and turns paradox into an idiosyncratic means of insight that transcends the sterile formalism of Hegelian metaphysics? Might it be the case that Kierkegaard is seeking to elevate something like τεχνή over επιστήμη, a knowing-how to detect meaning within the fluid dynamics of life instead of a logically static method of deduction in securing metaphysical knowledge; a mode of knowing that must seem like madness to the Hegelian systems of rational deduction?

This paper will seek to explore the notion that Kierkegaard understands reason as an inadequate guide only in comparison to the madness of paradoxical insight, the kind of insight that cannot justify itself according to a pristine system of rigorous intellection. To demonstrate the narrative of a life that advances from reason to paradoxical insight our work closely examines Shakespeare's King Lear, and observes how Lear's progressive rational dislocation allows him to gain insight into the events transpiring around him—a theme redolent of Kierkegaard's own project. The Danish writer occasionally alludes to characters and episodes in King Lear, such as the idealized image of "Cordelia" in "The Diary of A Seducer," lodged in the midst of Either/Or. We intend to show that both Kierkegaard and Shakespeare's Lear reveal a fundamental stochastic element in human knowledge that looks like madness to more inert reason, but in fact is the foundation of the subjective commitment that allows us to discern what is true and authentic.

In tracing the title character's quest for understanding, this paper will focus on five crucial and justly famous scenes from King Lear: the opening "division of the kingdom" of Act I, scene i; Lear's conversations with his Fool in Act I, scene iv and Act II scene iv; Lear's profound and poignant dialogue with Gloucester in Act IV, scene vi; and Lear's emotional reunion with daughter Cordelia in Act V, scene ii. Each scene will demonstrate the notion that Lear's descent into "madness" is actually the vehicle by which he achieves his greatest insight, thus providing a series of examples that illustrate how the Kierkegaardian concept of paradox is embodied in the life of a passionate individual. In addition, our account of Shakespeare's use of dramatic irony in these key scenes will further demonstrate how King Lear is a powerfully effective example of the paradox of insight-through-madness. Our conclusion suggests that, in Kierkegaard's thought and King Lear's words, paradox is not an irrational state of Being, but an insightful state of mind.

Watrous, Lisa

Lisa Watrous
Graduate Student
Michigan Technological University

Being with the Neighbor in Kierkegaard and Heidegger

In this age of globalization we share the world, but we often share it poorly. The magnitude and scope of this injustice can easily discourage and overwhelm us. Displaced by varied circumstances and in search of refuge, we find ourselves away from home and surrounded by the unknown. We find ourselves in a place where we have not been before, and we do not know the others along the way. They are different and unlike us. Yet, they are not immune to the struggles of the world. Indeed, we share a common condition. We all need compassion. However, in this world, compassion for others of difference—for neighbors—is rare.

In Works of Love, Søren Kierkegaard turns to Scripture and outlines a version of mercy or compassion that is not contingent upon material resources. His is a mercy born of poverty. Kierkegaard describes our difficulty with sharing the world with others who bear "external" and "earthly markers of dissimilarity" (87). Helping readers catch sight of the common "watermark of eternity" (89), Kierkegaard points to the possibility of poverty-stricken mercy shared between people of difference.

Kierkegaard's mercy often appears to stand in sharp contrast to the work of Martin Heidegger, who is rightly accused of developing a conception of care, or solicitude, without attending to the ethics of that care. My paper first examines the difficult and necessary work of compassion extended between people of difference by placing Kierkegaard's explication of mercy in conversation with Heidegger's depiction of solicitude. Building upon an altered understanding of compassion, I turn then to the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) to demonstrate the nature of caring well with and for others of difference, that is, with and for our neighbors.

Wells, Mark Austin

Mark Austin Wells
Professor of Philosophy and Ethics
Montreat College

Crumbs of Truth (A Poetic Venture): A Dialogue Between Climacus and Socrates Via the Eternal

In his "Philosophical Crumbs," Johannes Climacus asks the leading questions: "Can a historical point of departure be given for an eternal consciousness? How can such a point of departure be of more than historical interest? Can an eternal happiness be built on historical knowledge?" This paper contends that what follows is an attempt at Socratic elenchus where the Socratic thinker is driven to ignorance—reversing the traditional role of Socrates and his interlocutor. Climacus then proposes that if truth is not internal (the Socratic view)it must come from a teacher, but the teacher must be the god. Although the presence of the god-man in history explains how one can be taught the truth it does not explain how one can understand or know the truth. This paper contends that "the eternal," as a capacity of the soul, is the point of contact/context in which the truth is enabled in the individual. Hence, the purpose of this paper is twofold: 1) to playfully expose the way Climacus outdialogues Socrates—perhaps via an imagined dialogue (a poetic venture), 2) to show the necessity and place of "the eternal" in knowing the truth.

Williams, Will

Will Williams
Adjunct Professor
Baylor University

Kierkegaard on the Ambivalence of Experience

Our contemporary era remains in the thrall of the Enlightenment interest in "experience." Many times "experience" gets read as something that simply and directly—perhaps even obviously—teaches us life lessons, especially since it is so immediate to our lives and has the aspect of tangibility and proximity. Kierkegaard shows his continued relevance as a Christian thinker for our time in his relativizing the presumably determinative power of the category of "experience" as an ambivalent teacher, in the name of advocating for the supremacy of Christian faith. For this paper, I will draw from several of Kierkegaard's works, focusing particularly on the upbuilding discourse "The Expectancy of Faith" (1843) and the final chapter of The Concept of Anxiety (1844).

Implicitly, Kierkegaard is setting his notion of the ambivalence of experience against the background of a Hegelianism that says that history has the power to teach objective lessons about the direction and progress of the human race, which includes a clear presentation of the meaning and purpose of each stage as it contributes to the ultimate outcome. To the contrary, Kierkegaard believes that the experiences in a human life, including the extrapolation into human history, are largely ambivalent, such that any "lessons" from experience must be subjectively appropriated and so probably say more about the subjective character of the person than about the existence of objective lessons.

For example, he argues that people can learn different things from life if they themselves are different, telling a story of two children who are brought up the same way and yet react oppositely to the instruction of their parents (EUD 22). It is the character of the children, not a difference in life experience, which is determinative here. What objective lessons from experience are to be learned about parenting and the formation of children if the same actions produce differing results? Kierkegaard says that the finite relations and context in which each person is placed "educate only finitely, and a person can always persuade them, always coax something else out of them…always prevent himself from absolutely learning something from them" (CA 156-7). This is why, he says, that a gambler is not necessarily taught to turn against gambling just because he loses (159-60). The experience of losing will not sway the committed gambler for whom "There is always the next time," and their present loss is never as great as imagination's next win. Indeed, the gambler may even "learn" absurd lessons from gambling experience, such as the fact that he lost his money being due to his having washed his socks the previous day or that he won great winnings because a beautiful woman blew on the dice before he rolled them. These lessons from experience, though, in truth speak more to his own superstitious or desperate character than to the constitution of the objective world.

It is important to give the caveat that Kierkegaard does not believe that experience teaches absolutely nothing, but only that it educates finitely or "to a certain degree." Surely it is uncontroversial to claim that repeated experience teaches the greater likelihood of some events over others. Shrewd calculations, though, are ineffective in taming anxiety because even the most impressive probability is not a certainty, and fear will continue to fear even the .025% chance. Alternatively, faith will remain confident when others have despaired that all hope is lost. In a state of passion, one will not be dissuaded from acting by being told that the odds are unfavorable because the decisiveness of action arises from such passion, not odds-calculating based on past experiences or histories.

Kierkegaard believes that trusting in supposedly objective circumstance or experience is, in fact, to trust in oneself instead of in God because it is to trust in one's own insight into the perceived nature of things. Therefore, the uncertainty of possibility provides us an excellent occasion to learn about ourselves since we imagine the future according to our own characters. Instead of appealing to our own insight or shrewd calculations under the guise of "experience," then, faith teaches us to relativize ourselves in light of the character and promises of God. God is more dependable than our ambivalent experiences, and the Christian believes God and not his own understanding (Prov 3:5-6). Since all experience must be subjectively appropriated, let it be done in faith. In this way, even ostensible refutations of the provision of God by worldly experience may be useful for training in Christian faith and existence.

Wilson, Matthew

Matthew Wilson
Philosophy Department
Baylor University

Kierkegaard and the American Dream

In the United States, Christians live in a social environment where the creation of wealth and abundance is not only the goal of the "American Dream", but it is the measurement of a successful life. In this paper, I argue that Kierkegaard's meditations on wealth and abundance in the Christian Discourses are highly relevant for Christians today. I introduce the paper by describing Kierkegaard's Copenhagen, a bourgeois society that was obsessed with money in a way not to dissimilar to our own. Kierkegaard's advice for those Christians who live in such abundance is to adopt a posture of what I call "existential poverty", whereby instead of chasing after wealth, Christians seek to 'become ignorant' of their wealth. Kierkegaard provides a helpful conceptual framework and practical advice on how to accomplish this admittedly difficult task. Kierkegaard argues that through (1) a proper reflection on one's own mortality, (2) a correct understanding of 'possession' and its delusive powers, and (3) the Christian self's recognition that one is only a traveler in the world, one can be "existentially poor" even if she is in a state of material abundance. Kierkegaard is able to gather all these lessons through reflecting on the life of the Lilly and the Birds found in Jesus' teaching in the Gospel of Matthew. I conclude by reflecting on how these Kierkegaardian themes are relevant for North American Christians today, who by global standards, all live in a state of material abundance. I argue there is a direct tension between the practical realities of American life—whereby one should in fact save for the future, buy certain kinds of insurance, have a retirement plan, etc.—and Christ's command that a true follower cannot serve both God and mammon. Kierkegaard's discourses help us to maintain a proper and healthy perspective on the role wealth in our lives, and if we take his advice seriously, could help free up significant resources (in terms of time and talent) for further service toward the Kingdom of God.

Yorton, Bryan

Bryan Yorton
Philosophy Department Chair
Hardin-Simmons University

Kierkegaard's Call for an Infinitely Intense Imagination

"Our age is essentially one of understanding and reflection, without passion, momentarily bursting into enthusiasm, and shrewdly lapsing into repose."

Søren Kierkegaard, The Present Age

Post-modernism, or whatever we wish to label the current intellectual setting, has a two-pronged challenge. On one side, generally within the arts, there is so much "meaning" that finding meaning has dwindled into a procedure of running through innumerable options (attempts to elucidate elusive and slippery signs) . On the other side, generally within the sciences (both natural and social), this quest for meaning is explained as the result of a long and complex mechanistic process. The drive for "meaning" is merely the byproduct of a powerful brain generating the reflection (and self-consciousness) that enables a fortunate species to flourish. Either way, we are inundated with what seems like endless possibilities, both positive and negative, within the human condition. Whether artists or scientists (or wisdom-seekers striving to be both) we cannot escape a profound sense of the infinite aspect of life. The more we "progress" in our technology the more we realize the future is limited only by imagination, and our imagination seems limitless. We are, as Kierkegaard so often implies, finite creatures with infinite aspirations. However, this plethora of possibilities inspires little more than short lived enthusiasm, with so much possibility whatever we strive to accomplish seems to be, ultimately, insignificant.

It might seem that we need to rein in the imagination, severely limit its use, and some interpret Kierkegaard, especially in Sickness unto Death, as calling for this. However, a careful study (supplemented by other writings, especially Training in Christianity and the conclusion of Works of Love) reveals that the problem is not too much imagination but an unhealthy use/kind of imagination rooted in an improper understanding of the concept of "infinite." Elucidating this understanding of infinity points toward a healthy use of the imagination, an imagination that is "qualitatively" rather than quantitatively infinite, an "intense" and vibrant imagination rather than (merely) powerful and multifarious.

Sickness unto Death explores the two extremes of finitude and infinitude, of necessity and possibility. Late modern thinking (both "romantic"/artistic and scientific) envisions the human as a complex organic whole that is somehow produced by a synthesis of these opposing aspects of the self. Herein we encounter the heart of the postmodern conundrum, the intrinsic impossibility of being a self (being distinctively human) when the process of becoming a self involves the synthesis of two opposites. The young man described in Training in Christianity experiences the Christian solution inferred in the conclusion of Sickness unto Death. He believes that with God all things are possible and thereby, despite challenges both intellectual and ethical, manages to hang onto the imaginative vision of "perfected idealization" and "is transformed into likeness with this picture." However, the Christian solution is not the only help offered.

The author of Sickness unto Death works within an expanding vision of human nature, beginning with a traditional Greek view (introspective wisdom reveals both our finitude/limitations and our infinitude/possibilities; in other words a recognition of a qualitative difference between humans and the merely natural), and moving towards what he calls the "theological self" (a self acutely aware of the need for grace in light of its sinful propensities). The proper understanding of imagination helps within this entire spectrum. That is, exploration of the contrast between a qualitatively intense and a quantitatively powerful imagination shows Kierkegaard to be not only an important "Christian thinker for our time" [the theme of this conference] but offers valuable guidance within the realm of human (non-revealed) wisdom. Indeed, a deep understanding of his view of imagination offers a profound response to the loss of meaning within our "postmodern" scene, especially within the secular assumptions that indemnify the inherent predicament of a finite mechanism that dreams, that envisions possibilities beyond the mundane. But not surprisingly, as is his wont, Kierkegaard's guidance in dealing with this "secular" conundrum cleverly moves his reader towards the recognition of a deep need to embrace Christian assumptions if one is to live life to its highest imaginable possibility. Thus, even his efficacy within the realm of secular thinking in the long run proves to be deeply "Christian."

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