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Kierkegaard and the Ends of Language

Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Kierkegaard and the Ends of Language
    Book Description:

    In mutually reflective readings of Kierkegaard’s foundational texts through the work of three pivotal authors—Franz Kafka, Theodor Adorno, and Rainer Maria Rilke—Hale shows how each of these writers draws attention to the unwavering sense of human finitude that pervades all of Kierkegaard’s work and, with it, the profoundly unsettling indeterminacy in which it results.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9251-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Kierkegaard Who? The Problem for Posterity
    (pp. 1-36)

    The difficulty we confront in reading Kierkegaard begins with the author. Who was Kierkegaard? What sort of work did he write? Philosophy? Theology? Literature? Who decides? And to what end? Is it the author alone who makes this distinction? Under what auspices? Or is it our responsibility as readers to categorize these texts and pave the way for their proper understanding at the start? On whose authority? The question is now conventionally assumed to be resolved by his use of pseudonyms.¹ Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous texts, we are assured, are “indirect communications.” That is, they are to be understood as merely indirect...

  5. 2 Learning to Read: Adorno, Kierkegaard, and Konstruktion
    (pp. 37-72)

    If the difficulty of Kierkegaard’s work concerns the extent to which it both articulates and is founded upon the particular strictures of an always only finite language, then any attempt to understand his work might best begin with the attempt to define the relationship between the linguistic expressions of the work and the philosophical ideas they are said to represent. In this sense, Theodor Adorno’s work in philosophy proves doubly useful, not only for his early interest in Kierkegaard, but also because his approach toward philosophy is related explicitly to the understanding of language. “All philosophical critique,” he proclaims in...

  6. 3 Affirmation: “Death’s Decision” and the Figural Imperative in Rilke and Kierkegaard
    (pp. 73-108)

    Clearly the difficulty with reading Kierkegaard—the difficulty with which Kierkegaard’s work presents its readers—has to do with the extent to which and the multiple ways in which language remains inconceivable merely as a system of representations. If what Kierkegaard shows his readers is the instability of representations, this is because the “productivity” of language extends beyond its aesthetic perception; language is never merely aesthetic, and understanding it is not merely about perceiving what it is. In this sense, the rhetorical analysis of linguistic significations will never entirely account for what language means. Insofar as the understanding of language...

  7. 4 The Other Proposition: Philosophical Fragments and the Grammar of Life
    (pp. 109-140)

    Death, we might still say, constitutes but one aspect of existence. It demarcates life, and its infinite effects are present everywhere in life: it makes all of life, in each of its effects, strictly finite. This infinite finitizing of life in existence, however, is infinite in all but one aspect: death does not negate life. There is life, and because life exists, death does also. And if existence itself is the one thing that remains unaffected by the perpetual presence of death, existence alone, it seems, would be the one thing, apart from death, held with absolute certainty. I exist....

  8. 5 Abraham: Departures
    (pp. 141-177)

    When God commanded Abraham to go to Mount Moriah and sacrifice his son, Isaac, Abraham went without hesitation: “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him” (Genesis, 22:3).¹ The journey took three days. On the third day, upon seeing the mountain in the distance, Abraham continued alone with Isaac, carrying only the wood, fire, and knife for the sacrifice, until they...

  9. Afterword: Freedom and Interpretation
    (pp. 178-184)

    There must be, then, a responsibility for interpretation, for, as Kafka has suggested, the possibility of freedom, unavailable both in and through conceptuality, might exist, if it is indeed today possible, only in the departure from such conceptual determination. It cannot be posited as a kind of goal—even the goal, as we are concerned with it here, of interpretation. Nor could it exist as the “truth” of interpretation. It cannot, in this sense, definitively be deduced or otherwise distilled from actuality. Freedom, in a word, cannot be ideal. To speak of it as transcendent is to speak only of...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 185-204)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 205-210)
  12. Index
    (pp. 211-214)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 215-215)