Kierkegaard on the transformative power of art

History of European Ideas 47 (3):429-442 (2021)
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ABSTRACT Kierkegaard seeks to inspire transformations. His aim is to get us to devote our lives to God or the Good rather than our own personal enjoyment – to abandon the aesthetic life in favour of the ethical or religious one. Drawing on Laurie Paul and Agnes Callard’s recent work, I maintain that two obstacles stand in Kierkegaard’s way. First, transformations involve adopting a new perspective on the world, one we cannot fully grasp ahead of time. Second, transformations also involve coming to care about something we do not yet care about. On my interpretation, Kierkegaard sees art, especially literature, as central to overcoming both obstacles. Good stories afford us a glimpse into what it would look and feel like to live in ways other than we currently do. In addition, they have the power to attract us to points of view we would ordinarily reject.



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Antony Aumann
Northern Michigan University

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References found in this work

Transformative Experience.Laurie Ann Paul - 2014 - Oxford University Press.
Art and painful emotion.Matthew Strohl - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (1):e12558.
Transformative Experience: Replies to Pettigrew, Barnes and Campbell.L. A. Paul - 2015 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91 (3):794-813.
Proleptic Reasons.Agnes Callard - 2016 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 11.

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