Kierkegaard’s Subjective Ontology: A Metaphysics of the Existing Individual


In the context of the contemporary emergence of a “postmodern Kierkegaard,” I take issue with the idea that Kierkegaardian thought involves an anti-essentialist rejection of ontology. I argue that Kierkegaard’s keynote existential analysis is paralleled by, if not tacitly set within, a less developed yet explicit ontology of human being. This “subjective ontology” is at once an ontology of the existing subject and a subjectization of ontology. Thus, the essay has two aims. First, I seek to revive and advance debate concerning the structure of the Kierkegaardian self by tracing something of its dynamic three-fold relational structure and various metaphysical polarities. Spirit, anxiety, and despair need to be understood in their ontological dimensions and not just as existential possibilities. Second, I propose a way of bringing together Kierkegaardian existentiality (the three stages) with his ontology (the three relations). Despite important asymmetries between these two structures, the unity of Kierkegaard’s approach can only be appreciated through viewing them synoptically

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Richard Colledge
Australian Catholic University

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