Kierkegaard and the Classical Virtue Tradition

Faith and Philosophy 27 (2):153-173 (2010)
This paper affirms the thesis that Kierkegaard can be properly and profitably read in light of the virtue tradition, broadly construed. I consider several objections to this thesis, including the idea that Kierkegaard largely opposes the culture of antiquity out of which the virtue tradition comes, that Kierkegaard’s emphasis on duty and the commanded nature of love is incompatible with genuine concerns of virtue ethics, and that Kierkegaard’s concept of faith is incompatible with a strong concern for the virtues. Then I offer two avenues for broadening our thinking about his ethical philosophy in light of the attention he pays to the virtues. First, I argue that we may beneficially read Kierkegaard alongside Jane Austen, as someone whose writings reflect both the Christian and Aristotelian traditions. Second, in terms of contemporary moral philosophy, I suggest that Kierkegaard be placed in conversation with “radical virtue ethics,” a category recently introduced by David Solomon
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