As part of the widespread turn to narrative in contemporary philosophy, several commentators have recently attempted to sign Kierkegaard up for the narrative cause, most notably in John Davenport and Anthony Rudd's recent collection Kierkegaard After MacIntyre: Essays on Freedom, Narrative and Virtue. I argue that the aesthetic and ethical existence‐spheres in Either/Or cannot adequately be distinguished in terms of the MacIntyre‐inspired notion of ‘narrative unity’. Judge William's argument for the ethical life contains far more in the way of substantive (...) normative content than can be encapsulated by the idea of ‘narrative unity’, and the related idea that narratives confer intelligibility will not enable us to distinguish Kierkegaardian aesthetes from Kierkegaardian ethicists. ‘MacIntyrean Kierkegaardians’ also take insufficient notice of further problems with MacIntyre's talk of ‘narrative unity’, such as his failure to distinguish between literary narratives and the ‘enacted dramatic narratives’ of which he claims our lives consist; the lack of clarity in the idea of a ‘whole life’; and the threat of self‐deception. Finally, against the connections that have been drawn between Kierkegaardian choice and Harry Frankfurt's work on volitional identification, I show something of the dangers involved in putting too much stress on unity and wholeheartedness. (shrink)
Irony, humor and the comic play vital yet under-appreciated roles in Kierkegaard's thought. Focusing upon the Concluding Unscientific Postscript , this book investigates these roles, relating irony and humor as forms of the comic to central Kierkegaardian themes. How does the comic function as a form of "indirect communication"? What roles can irony and humor play in the infamous Kierkegaardian "leap"? Do certain forms of wisdom depend upon possessing a sense of humor? And is such a sense of humor thus (...) a genuine virtue? (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to make sense of cases of apparent nonsense in the writings of Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein. Against commentators such as Cora Diamond and James Conant, we argue that, in the case of Wittgenstein, recognising such a category of nonsense is necessary in order to understand the development of his thought. In the case of Kierkegaard, we argue against the view that the notion of the 'absolute paradox' of the Christian incarnation is intended to be nonsensical. (...) However, we recognise that Kierkegaard's discussion of Christianity uses a similar methodology to a Wittgensteinian grammatical investigation. We maintain that by making sense of their respective views on nonsense and paradox we are able more fully to appreciate their positions on, and approaches to, ethics and religion. (shrink)
In recent commentary on Kierkegaard’s Works of Love, a distinction is commonly drawn between ‘proper’ and ‘selfish’ forms of self- love. In arguing that not all vices of self-focus can be captured under the heading of selfishness, I seek to distinguish selfishness from self-centredness. But the latter vice has a far more handsome cousin: proper self-focus of the kind necessary for ‘becoming a self’. As various feminist thinkers have argued, this will be missed if we valorise self-sacrifice too uncritically. But (...) nor need the latter concept be ditched. By distinguishing varieties of self-sacrifice, we can see the importance of avoiding the all too easy slide from proper self-sacrifice to outright self-annihilation. And we can discover that this avoidance is aided by recognising a kind of pride as part of true self- love. (shrink)
Though there are significant points of overlap between Michelle Kosch's reading of Fear and Trembling and my own, this paper focuses primarily on a significant difference: the legitimacy or otherwise of looking to paradigmatic exemplars of faith in order to understand faith. I argue that Kosch's reading threatens to underplay the importance of exemplarity in Kierkegaard's thought, and that there is good reason to resist her use of Philosophical Fragments as the key to interpreting the 'hidden message' of Fear and (...) Trembling. Key to both claims is the Concluding Unscientific Postscript. I also briefly sketch an alternative reading of the 'hidden message', one in which Kierkegaard's Christian commitments play a notably different role. (shrink)
Kierkegaard’s Works of Love has often been accused of being unable to deal adequately with ‘special relationships’. This debate has re-emerged in a fresh form in a recent disagreement in the secondary literature between M. Jamie Ferreira and Sharon Krishek. Krishek charges Ferreira with failing to acknowledge some important conflicts in Kierkegaard’s account of preferential love. In this article, I argue that some key passages are indeed insufficiently addressed in Ferreira’s account. Yet ultimately, I argue, Krishek ends up condemning the (...) Kierkegaard of Works of Love unfairly. As a solution to Krishek’s concerns, I present a defence of Kierkegaard’s position centred round the image of God as a ‘filter’ through which our loves must pass. Also, while acknowledging that Krishek raises some important questions for Ferreira’s account, I outline a possible response, based in part on Kierkegaard’s idea that neighbour love is only a ‘sketch’ until brought to fruition in any given manifestation of concrete love. Ultimately, I claim, Kierkegaard’s position in Works of Love can indeed be defended from Krishek’s critique. (shrink)
The Oxford Handbook of Kierkegaard brings together an outstanding selection of contemporary specialists and uniquely combines work on the background and context of Kierkegaard's writings, exposition of his key ideas, and a survey of his ...
Kierkegaard, described by Wittgenstein as "by far the most profound thinker of the [nineteenth] century," has influenced a wide range of philosophers and theologians. Fear and Trembling , which investigates the nature of faith and its relation to ethics via a discussion of the story of Abraham and Isaac, is one of Kierkegaard's most compelling and popular works. Kierkegaard and Fear and Trembling introduces and assesses: * Kierkegaard's life and the background to Fear and Trembling * The ideas and text (...) of Fear and Trembling , possibly his most famous work * Kierkegaard's continuing importance in philosophy. (shrink)
This chapter examines the ideas of Soren Kierkegaard related to moral philosophy. It analyses Kierkegaard's connection to narrative-based views of practical identity and discusses his account of forgiveness, which is considered as his contribution to moral psychology. The chapter also identifies the links between the ideas of Kierkegaard and those of recent moral philosophers including Charles Taylor, Iris Murdoch, Harry Frankfurt, and Alasdair MacIntyre.
In this article, I offer a brief account of some of Kierkegaard’s key concerns about friendship: its “preferential” nature and its being a form of self-love. Kierkegaard’s endorsement of the ancient idea of the friend as “second self” involves a common but misguided assumption: that friendship depends largely upon likeness between friends. This focus obscures a vitally important element, highlighted by the so-called “drawing” view of friendship. Once this is emphasized, we can see a significant aspect - though by no (...) means all - of Kierkegaard’s worry as misplaced. However, the “drawing” view also enables us to begin to see what a “Kierkegaardian” friendship might look like. (shrink)
The problem of whether we should love ourselves - and if so how - has particular resonance within Christian thought and is an important yet underinvestigated theme in the writings of Søren Kierkegaard. In Works of Love, Kierkegaard argues that the friendships and romantic relationships which we typically treasure most are often merely disguised forms of 'selfish' self-love. Yet in this nuanced and subtle account, John Lippitt shows that Kierkegaard also provides valuable resources for responding to the challenge of how (...) we can love ourselves, as well as others. Lippitt relates what it means to love oneself properly to such topics as love of God and neighbour, friendship, romantic love, self-denial and self-sacrifice, trust, hope and forgiveness. The book engages in detail with Works of Love, related Kierkegaard texts and important recent studies, and also addresses a wealth of wider literature in ethics, moral psychology and philosophy of religion. (shrink)
Is a sense of humour a virtue? In an informal sense of the term ‘virtue’, of course it is. A sense of humour is a trait nobody wants to be thought of as lacking, and one that we value in partners, friends, and colleagues alike. But the claim that a sense of humour is a moral virtue seems far more controversial. Yet in a fascinating article, just this claim has been advanced by Robert C. Roberts, who relates it to the (...) further claim that there are figures, such as Socrates and Tolstoy, “whose wisdom was partially constituted by a sense of humour.” Now, if it is right that certain forms of wisdom are partially constituted by the possession of a certain sense of humour, then it is a likely corollary that the development of such wisdom goes hand in hand with the development of such a sense of humour. In which case, the development of such a sense of humour would be a significant dimension of moral education, understood as a training in the virtues. (shrink)
In this article, I offer a brief account of some of Kierkegaard's key concerns about friendship: its "preferential" nature and its being a form of self-love. Kierkegaard's endorsement of the ancient idea of the friend as "second self" involves a common but misguided assumption: that friendship depends largely upon likeness between friends. This focus obscures a vitally important element, highlighted by the so-called "drawing" view of friendship. Once this is emphasized, we can see a significant aspect - though by no (...) means all - of Kierkegaard's worry as misplaced. However, the "drawing" view also enables us to begin to see what a "Kierkegaardian" friendship might look like. (shrink)
According to James Conant, the 'revocations' made of the "Concluding Unscientific Postscript" and the "Tractatus" by their authors mean that we should view these texts as containing 'simple nonsense'. I firstly criticize the reading of the Postscript's 'revocation' which leads Conant to this conclusion. Next, I aim to show why we shall better understand the revocation's significance if we pay close attention to two factors: the pseudonymous author Johannes Climacus's description of himself as a 'humorist'; and, more importantly, what the (...) text tells us about 'humour' as an entire existential life-view; one given much less attention in Kierkegaard scholarship than the much better-known 'aesthetic', 'ethical' and 'religious' views of life. (shrink)
This paper investigates Johannes Climacus''s infamous satire against Hegelianism in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript. In considering why Climacus aims to show speculative thought as comical rather than simply mistaken, it is argued that Climacus sees the need for the comic as a vital form of ''indirect communication.'' The thinker who approaches ethical and religious questions in an inappropriately ''objective'' manner is in the grip of an illusion which can only be dispelled by his coming to see his own confusion, and (...) satire (as well as other forms of the comic) can be a more effective weapon in dispelling such illusions than can more ''direct'' forms of critical argument. Moreover, it is argued that the ''Hegelian'' is not simply a figure at whom Climacus''s readers are invited to scoff. Rather, we are intended to see ourselves as prone to the same kind of confusions and evasions. Thus Climacus''s ostensibly anti-Hegelian satire is itself a form of indirect communication which, if we do see how it rebounds upon ourselves, serves a vital ethical-religious purpose. (shrink)
Love's Forgiveness combines a discussion of the nature and ethics of forgiveness with a discussion--inspired by Kierkegaard--of the implications of considering interpersonal forgiveness as a 'work of love'.
Is it possible to forgive oneself? If so, should the person who has done so, for a serious wrongdoing, be fully at peace with herself? Some philosophers, perhaps most famously Hannah Arendt, have denied the coherence of the very idea of self-forgiveness.1 Others, such as Charles Griswold, have recognized it as both coherent and important: a distinct phenomenon from accepting the forgiveness of others, and vital in circumstances where seeking such forgiveness is morally problematic. Yet Griswold still holds self-forgiveness to (...) fall short of what he calls "paradigmatic" forgiveness.2 One of the key ideas behind this article is that part of the problem with understanding self-forgiveness is a mistaken tendency to... (shrink)
What does it take to forgive oneself? I argue that reflection on Briony Tallis in Ian McEwan’s Atonement can help us understand two key aspects of self-forgiveness. First, she illustrates an unorthodox conception of humility that, I argue, aids the process of responsible self-forgiveness. Second, she fleshes out a self-forgiveness that includes continued self-reproach. While Briony illustrates elements of the self-absorption about which critics of continued self-reproach are rightly concerned, she also shows a way of getting beyond this, such that (...) the delicate balance between self-forgiveness and self-condemnation is upheld. Atonement also shows the significance for the task of self-forgiveness of a particular kind of narrative continuity. (shrink)