Trivial Tasks that Consume a Lifetime: Kierkegaard on Immortality and Becoming Subjective

The Journal of Ethics 19 (3-4):419-441 (2015)

Mark Wrathall
Oxford University
S. Kierkegaard argued that our highest task as humans is to realize an “intensified” or “developed” form of subjectivity—his name for self-responsible agency. A self-responsible agent is not only responsible for her actions. She also bears responsibility for the individual that she is. In this paper, I review Kierkegaard’s account of the role that our capacity for reflective self-evaluation plays in making us responsible for ourselves. It is in the exercise of this capacity that we can go from being subjective in a degraded sense—merely being an idiosyncratic jumble of accidental and arbitrary attitudes and affects—to being a subject in the ideal or eminent sense. The latter requires the exercise of my capacity for reflective self-evaluation, since it involves recognizing, identifying with, and reinforcing those aspects of my overall make-up that allow me to express successfully a coherent way of being in the world. Kierkegaard argues that taking immortality seriously is one way to achieve the right kind of reflective stance on one’s own character or personality. Thus, Kierkegaard argues that immortality as a theoretical posit can contribute to one’s effort to own or assume responsibility for being the person one is.
Keywords Kierkegaard  Subjectivity  Immortality  Responsibility
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DOI 10.1007/s10892-015-9213-6
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