This article tries to make sense of the concept of the highest good (eternal bliss) in Søren Kierkegaard by comparing it to the analysis of the highest good found in Immanuel Kant. The comparison with Kant’s more systematic analysis helps us clarify the meaning and importance of the concept in Kierkegaard as well as to shed new light on the conceptual relation between Kant and Kierkegaard. The article argues that the concept of the highest good is of systematic importance in (...) Kierkegaard, although previous research has tended to overlook this, no doubt due to Kierkegaard’s cryptic use of the concept. It is argued that Kierkegaard’s concept of the highest good is much closer to Kant’s than what previous research has indicated. In particular, Kant and Kierkegaard see the highest good not only as comprising of virtue and happiness (bliss), but also as being the Kingdom of God. (shrink)
By comparing the theories of evil found in Kant and Kierkegaard, this article aims to shed new light on Kierkegaard, as well as on the historical and conceptual relations between the two philosophers. The author shows that there is considerable overlap between Kant's doctrine of radical evil and Kierkegaard's views on guilt and sin and argues that Kierkegaard approved of the doctrine of radical evil. Although Kierkegaard's distinction between guilt and sin breaks radically with Kant, there are more Kantian elements (...) in Kierkegaard than was shown by earlier scholarship. Finally, Kierkegaard provides an alternative solution to the problem of the universality of guilt, a problem much discussed in the literature on Kant. (shrink)
The present article deals with religious faith by comparing the so-called double movement of faith in Kierkegaard to Kant's moral faith. Kierkegaard's double movement of faith and Kant's moral faith can be seen as providing different accounts of religious faith, as well as involving different solutions to the problem of realizing the highest good. The double movement of faith in Fear and Trembling provides an account of the structure of faith that helps us make sense of what Kierkegaard means by (...) religious faith in general, as well as to understand better the relation between philosophy and Christian thinking in Kierkegaard. It is argued that previous scholarship has described the relation between Kierkegaard and Kant in a misleading manner by interpreting Kant as an ethicist and overlooking the role of grace in Kant. (shrink)
This article investigates the convergence between Kierkegaard’s concept of despair and Nietzsche’s concept of nihilism. The piece argues that (1) both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche rely on an internal critique of ways of life which collapse on their own terms; (2) both despair and nihilism involve a radical, existential aporia and double-mindedness which can be (3) either conscious or non-conscious; (4) there is some overlap between the main types of nihilism and the different types of inauthentic (non-conscious) despair; (5) finally, a (...) comparison with Nietzsche makes it possible to make sense of inauthentic despair without resorting to theological presuppositions or a twentieth century depth psychology notion of the unconscious. (shrink)
This article deals with hope – and its importance – by analysing the little-known analysis of hope found in Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard present hope as essential to moral agency, arguingthat hope should never be given up, even if it is not supported by experience. This articlegives an interpretation of the strong claims about the necessity of hope found in Kierkegaardwhich tries to reconstruct some of Kierkegaard’s central claims, arguing that Kierkegaard can be used to sketch a distinction between justified and unjustified (...) hope. (shrink)
This essay tries to show that there exist several passages where Kierkegaard (and his pseudonyms) sketches an argument for the existence of God and immortality that is remarkably similar to Kant's so-called moral argument for the existence of God and immortality. In particular, Kierkegaard appears to follow Kant's moral argument both when it comes to the form and content of the argument as well as some of its terminology. The essay concludes that several passages in Kierkegaard overlap significantly with Kant's (...) moral argument, although Kierkegaard ultimately favors revealed faith over natural theology in general and Kant's moral faith in particular. Whereas Kant uses the moral argument to postulate the existence of God and immortality, Kierkegaard mainly uses it as a reductio ad absurdum of non-religious thinking. (shrink)
The present text focuses on what resources Kierkegaard offers for dealing with the question “Why be moral?” I sketch an approach to this question by presenting Kierkegaard’s methodology, his negative arguments against the aesthete and the motive he offers for being moral. I conclude that Kierkegaard does provide motivation for assessing ourselves in moral terms, although his approach is more relevant to deontological ethics and virtue ethics than consequentialism.
This article provides a critical assessment of Habermas’s recent work on religion and its role in the public sphere by comparing it to Kant’s phi-losophy of religion on the one hand and that of Kierkegaard on the other. It is argued that although Habermas is in many ways a Kantian, he diverges from Kant when it comes to religion, by taking a position which comes closer to the Kierkegaardian view that religiousness belongs to private faith rather than philosophy. This has (...) implications not just for the conception of religion but also for the very roles of communication, validity, rationality, and philosophy. (shrink)
This article shows how the little-known work Denkbewegungen (MS 183), sheds new light upon Wittgenstein’s view of religion in general and Christianity and Kierkegaard in particular. While earlier interpretations stress the fact that Denkbewegungen is a diary and therefore favour a biographical reading, the thematic and historical approach used here reveals the influence that Kierkegaard’s Fragments and Postscript has on Wittgenstein’s analysis of religion. Both Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein are concerned with the presuppositions of religion and especially the question of whether (...) these presuppositions are something that we ourselves possess (immanent religion) or whether they have to be given or revealed (transcendent religion). This article focuses on transcendent religion itself as well as the question of primacy between transcendent and immanent religion. The article shows that Wittgenstein supports a claim that entails that both the religious language-game and the religious way of living hold a unique position as regards to the primacy of religion. The article also shows that Wittgenstein’s attitude towards Christianity, especially as found in Denkbewegungen, is equivocal. (shrink)
This paper gives a brief overview of the labour market for Norwegian philosophy candidates, emphasising the main problems these candidates face in the labour market. The problems in the job market are then related to weaknesses in the Norwegian university system and to problems associated with academic publishing. I close by suggesting a prioritizing of philosophy in the school system, and by calling for Norwegian Ph.D. courses to be strengthened.
Thiss article deals with how moral freedom relates to historicity and contingency by comparing Kierkegaard's theory of the anthropological synthesis to Kant'sconcept of moral character. The comparison indicates that there are more Kantian elements in Kierkegaard's anthropology than shown by earlier scholarship.More specifically, both Kant and Kierkegaard see a true change in the wayone lives as involving not only a revolution in the way one thinks, but alsothat one takes over—and tries to reform—both oneself and human society.Also, Kierkegaard relies on (...) the ideality of ethics and the doctrines of moral rigorism and radical evil. However, Kierkegaard can be seen as trying to find amore systematic role for historicity and contingency than Kant by developingthe concept of facticity and by analyzing the so-called “despair of possibility.”. (shrink)
The present paper discusses the academic job market for candidates with a Norwegian Ph.D. in philosophy. It proceeds by responding to an earlier article by Tom Andreassen (2017) that criticizes my 2017 article on the academic job market. Andreassen argues that my 2017 comparison of different Ph.D. programs does not do justice to the Norwegian MA. In this response, I defend my previous claims about the difficult academic job market and argue that these claims do not depend on controversial assumptions (...) about the Ph.D. or MA education. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to clarify Kierkegaard’s concept of demonic despair (and demonic evil) and to show its relevance for discussions of the guise of the good thesis (i.e. that in f-ing intentionally, we take f-ing to be good). Contemporary discussions of diabolic evil often emphasise the phenomena of despair and acedia as apparent counter-examples to the guise of the good. I contend that Kierkegaard’s analysis of despair is relevant to these discussions, because it reconciles demonic (extreme) despair (...) and acedia with the guise of the good. In The Sickness unto Death, Kierkegaard provides an influential, systematic account of despair that relates evil, despair, and acedia to each other. Michelle Kosch argues that this account goes beyond Kierkegaard’s German predecessors by introducing a concept of diabolic evil and despair. By contrast, the present paper argues that Kierkegaard takes diabolic evil to be impossible, although he offers a rich analysis of the demonic that resembles diabolic agency. Still, Kierkegaard’s analysis rests on ontological assumptions about the nature of the good that belong to a Platonico-Christian tradition that is controversial today. (shrink)
This article discusses how Magnus Eiriksson, a forgotten contemporary of Kierkegaard, introduced and developed the influential reading of Kierkegaard as an irrationalist concerning religious faith. It also shows how Kierkegaard responded to Eiriksson by clearly denying that he is an irrationalist and by suggesting that faith is above reason, not against it.
The aim of this paper is two-fold. First, it compares Peter Wessel Zapffe's pessimism with Søren Kierkegaard's religious anti-nihilism. Second, it argues that Kierkegaard's view is preferable to that of Zapffe.
This chapter sketches a reconstruction of the concept of hidden inwardness that argues that the concept refers to ethico-religious characters that are expressed in deeds and words, rather than a private inner world. By relying on the distinction between morality and legality, I argue that “hidden inwardness” is not compatible with all kinds of behavior and that it is better described negatively than positively. The concept of hidden inwardness need therefore not be as problematic as is often assumed, since it (...) mainly involves the idea that we do not know hearts and minds. Still, Kierkegaard’s later works use “hidden inwardness” in a different manner than the earlier pseudonymous writings. However, I argue that this change in use of the term involves more a change of emphasis, which prevents misuses of “hidden inwardness,” than any significant change of theoretical position. Finally, I show that “hidden inwardness” sheds light on the controversial theses “Subjectivity is truth” and “Subjectivity is untruth” in Concluding Unscientific Postscript. (shrink)
Kant’s critical philosophy represents a rudimentary existentialism, or a proto-existentialism, in the following respects: He emphasizes human finitude, limits our knowledge, and argues that human consciousness is characterized by mineness (Jemeinigkeit). He introduces the influential concept of autonomy, something that lead to controversies about constructivism and anti-realism in meta-ethics and anticipated problems concerning decisionism in Existentialism. Kant makes human freedom the central philosophical issue, arguing (in the incorporation thesis) that freedom is inescapable for human agents. He even holds that awareness (...) of freedom leads to anxiety (as opposed to fear), and that anxiety precedes the fall into evil. In the doctrine of radical evil, he argues that human agents are always already suffering from self-deception because of this fall. In order to overcome self-deception and evil, Kant proscribes a radical self-choice in which the agent takes over himself and society by thinking independently and consistently. However, this is not only a moral issue for Kant but also something that concerns religious faith and hope, since Kant argues that we need religion to overcome not only moral evil but also despair. Although he criticizes traditional natural theology, Kant develops a practical (moral) interpretation of religion that anticipates religious Existentialism. In this context, he developed an influential critique of philosophical theodicies and a notion of the hiddenness of God that emphasizes the importance and inscrutability of evil. By doing this, and by introducing philosophy of religion and philosophical anthropology as new disciplines, Kant prepared the ground for Existentialism. (shrink)
Kierkegaard and Kant on Radical Evil and the Highest Good is a major study of Kierkegaard's relation to Kant that gives a comprehensive account of radical evil and the highest good, two controversial doctrines with important consequences for ethics and religion.
Kierkegaard differs from his contemporaries Schopenhauer and Nietzsche by emphasizing the value of hope and its importance for human agency and selfhood (practical identity). In The Sickness unto Death, Kierkegaard argues that despair involves a loss of hope and courage that is extremely common. Moreover, despair involves being double-minded by having an incoherent practical identity (although it need not be recognized as such if the agent mistakes his identity). A coherent practical identity, by contrast, requires wholehearted commitment towards ideals and (...) the hope that our ideals are realizable. Kierkegaard develops an existential account of hope that emphasizes the interrelation between hope and despair (hopelessness), seeing both as crucial for human agency and selfhood. More specifically, Kierkegaard defends the strong view that we should always hope for the good, no matter how bad the situation might be. Put differently, Kierkegaard sees hope against hope as necessary for human agency and selfhood. His emphasis lies not so much on a description of what hope is as an analysis of what justified hope is. More specifically, Kierkegaard argues that justified hope is interrelated with charity and religious faith, and has the highest good (eternal bliss) as its proper object. As such, it belongs not only to a Judeo-Christian tradition that focuses on the Pauline triad of faith, hope, and charity but it also belongs to a philosophical tradition from Augustine and Kant that views the highest good (the summum bonum), a synthesis of virtue and happiness, as the ultimate object of hope. However, Kierkegaard goes beyond his forerunner by developing a via negativa approach to hope that starts with hopelessness and despair before it proceeds to hope. Indeed, Kierkegaard argues that proper hope, hope against hope, both presupposes and overcomes despair at every instant. (shrink)
Many of Søren Kierkegaard's most controversial and influential ideas are more relevant than ever to contemporary debates on ethics, philosophy of religion and selfhood. Kierkegaard develops an original argument according to which wholeheartedness requires both moral and religious commitment. In this book, Roe Fremstedal provides a compelling reconstruction of how Kierkegaard develops wholeheartedness in the context of his views on moral psychology, meta-ethics and the ethics of religious belief. He shows that Kierkegaard's influential account of despair, selfhood, ethics and religion (...) belongs to a larger intellectual context in which German philosophers such as Kant and Fichte play crucial roles. Moreover, Fremstedal makes a solid case for the controversial claim that religion supports ethics, instead of contradicting it. His book offers a novel and comprehensive reading of Kierkegaard, drawing on important sources that are little known. (shrink)
This chapter relates Kierkegaard’s views on anthropology and selfhood to Kantian and post-Kantian philosophical anthropology. It focuses on Kierkegaard’s contribution to anthropology, and discusses the relation between philosophical and theological anthropology in Kierkegaard. The chapter gives a synopsis of these issues by focusing on The Sickness unto Death, although important elements of this work are anticipated by Either/Or, The Concept of Anxiety and Concluding Unscientific Postscript. After an historical introduction and brief remarks on Kierkegaard’s method, the chapter moves to human (...) nature, selfhood, and despair in The Sickness unto Death. We will see that human nature is interpreted as a synthesis of opposites, whereas selfhood requires self-consciousness and higher-order volition. Nevertheless, The Sickness unto Death approaches selfhood and anthropology negatively by focusing on despair, a deficient form of agency that involves double-mindedness. Kierkegaard argues that despair can only be overcome by wholeheartedness and religious faith. Whereas Part I of The Sickness unto Death provides a philosophical anthropology that distinguishes between inauthentic (non-conscious) and authentic (conscious) despair, Part II develops a theological anthropology that focuses on faith and despair before God. Part I analyses and criticizes various forms of despair on their own terms, whereas Part II identifies despair with sin on the presupposition of divine revelation. Overall, The Sickness unto Death provides a systematic analysis of despair that has been influential in continental philosophy and theology. It is a fascinating contribution to anthropology and theories of selfhood because of its typology and negativistic phenomenology. On the one hand, the analysis of non-conscious despair provides an intriguing account of self-deception, facticity, and freedom. On the other, the analysis of demonic despair—which does evil because it is evil—appears to challenge the widespread idea that all intentional action is prompted by something that appears good). (shrink)
The present article deals with German philosophy from Leibniz to Fichte that formed an important part of Kierkegaard’s intellectual background. In this period German philosophy came to dominate Danish philosophy. However, Kierkegaard’s attitude towards his German predecessors is generally ambivalent, involving both critique and admiration. Although Kierkegaard was fluent in German and well familiar with classic German philosophy, his use of this philosophy is somewhat eclectic and assimilated to his own ends. Kierkegaard uses his German predecessors to develop a distinction (...) between the spheres of existence and thought and to reinforce what he took to be genuine Christian faith. (shrink)
The present article deals with Kierkegaard’s contributions to ethics by focusing on his relation to virtue ethics and deontology, his views of moral agency and the source of moral obligations. It is argued that Kierkegaard presents a critique of Kantian autonomy that favors moral realism and theological voluntarism and that he gives an account of human agency and selfhood in which morality is inescapable.
In this paper, I discuss and reject both the idea of a moral order, in which morality and prudence generally coincide, and the idea of a tragic world, in which morality and prudence generally collide. I then discuss and defend an intermediary position in which morality and prudence converge substantially. It is argued that moral agency presuppose friction that prevents morality from coinciding perfectly with prudence. Still, morality and prudence should not be thought of as being fundamentally incompatible, because this (...) would lead to an objectionable dualism of practical reason as well as demoralization. (shrink)
The present text deals with the question of the meaning of life in theexistentialist theory oft heNorwegian philosopher Peter Wessel Zapffe(1899–1990). In his book On the Tragic (1941), Zapffe sketched a theory of the human condition where the meaning of life plays a decisive role together with the human need for justice. This paper aims to reconstruct the central elements of Zapffe’s analysis and to discuss them critically by focusing on his claim that human beings need a fundamental meaning of (...) life as a whole that transcends meaning in life. I pay particular attention to Zapffe’s claim that life is meaningless, since the meaning of life is fundamentallylacking.I conclude that Zapffe’s analysis is problematic for reasons both internal and external to his theory. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to explore a pragmatic approach to hope and the ethics of belief that allows rational hope against hope. Hope against hope is hope that goes beyond what the evidence supports by hoping for something that is both highly unlikely and highly valuable. However, this could take different forms. One could either hope against the evidence or merely go beyond it; the evidence could be inconclusive or conclusive, conflicting or clear, misleading or plain, absent or (...) neutral. Hope against hope then covers everything from hoping for something that appears unlikely to hoping for something that appears impossible, judging by the available evidence. However, there is a very long tradition of criticizing hope for being false or irrational. But hope can only be false or irrational if it is subject to rational assessment. This presupposes that it is appropriate to ask for a reason or a justification for hoping, since one can be answerable or responsible for hoping. Moreover, this typically assumes that hopes can be changed in response to reasons. False hopes, notably, should be given up (if possible). However, if hope is subject to rational assessment, it is also possible for hope to be rational or justified. Indeed, I will explore how practical reasons or pragmatic considerations may justify hope against hope, sketching criteria for rational hope that allow hope against hope. Section I introduces evidentialism and pragmatism regarding belief. Sections II and III discuss whether or not rational hope against hope is compatible with evidentialism, favoring a pragmatist approach to hope and belief. Section IV discusses evidentialism and pragmatism, whereas sections V-VII sketch constraints on pragmatism and rational hope. (shrink)
This chapter focuses on how Kierkegaard criticizes both eudaimonism and Kantian autonomy for failing to account for unconditional obligations and genuine other-regard. Like Kant, Kierkegaard argues that eudaimonism makes moral virtue contingent on prudence. Kierkegaard views eudaimonism as an anthropocentric and self-regarding doctrine, which he contrasts not with Kantian autonomy but with theocentrism and proper other-regard. Kierkegaard then criticizes Kantian autonomy in much the same way as he criticizes eudaimonism. Whereas eudaimonism makes morality contingent on prudence, autonomy makes morality contingent (...) on decisions that may be revoked, he argues. As a result, human autonomy can account for hypothetical imperatives but not categorical imperatives. This line of reasoning seems problematic, however, since Kierkegaard takes Kantian autonomy to not only represent a form of moral constructivism, but also a form of moral relativism and decisionism. Still, Kierkegaard’s critique of autonomy indicates that morality and practical rationality need unconditional commitment towards what is objectively good. (shrink)
While it is commonly held that natural evil and suffering undermine religious belief, Kant and Kierkegaard both argue that religion and ethics presuppose discontentment, hardship, and uncertainty. Both argue that moral purity requiresthat this world be imperfect both in the sense of having restricted knowledgeand in the sense that virtue does not lead to happiness. Thus, both thinkersmake constitutive assumptions about the moral structure of the world on prac-tical grounds. But whereas Kant insists that there must be some connection inthis (...) world between morality and happiness, Kierkegaard tends to deny this, portraying this world either as amoral (in 1843–46) or as evil (in 1850–55). (shrink)
This article aims to show that in his little-known work Denkbewegungen (MS 183), Wittgenstein sketchesan existential philosophy that has been influenced by Kierkegaard. While earlier interpretations of Denkbewegungen stress that this is a diary and tend to favour a biographical orpsychological approach to the diary, I try – with a thematic andhistorical approach − to show that this book sheds new light upon how Wittgenstein was occupied with Kierkegaard (and Christian-ity) on the one hand, and ethics, religion, and existential philoso-phy (...) on the other. Because of this, Denkbewegungen can provideus with a better understanding of how Wittgenstein, during animportant period in the 1930s, developed his thinking. (shrink)