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Thinking through Kierkegaard

Thinking through Kierkegaard: Existential Identity in a Pluralistic World

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 192
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    Thinking through Kierkegaard
    Book Description:

    Thinking through Kierkegaard is a critical evaluation of Søren Kierkegaard's vision of the normatively human, of who we are and might aspire to become, and of what Mehl calls our existential identity. Through a pragmatist examination of three of Kierkegaard's key pseudonymous "voices" (Judge William, Climacus, and Anti-Climacus), Peter J. Mehl argues that Kierkegaard's path is not the only end of our search, but instead leads us to affirm a plurality of paths toward a fulfilling existential identity. _x000B_Contrary to Kierkegaard's ideal of moral personhood and orthodox Christian identity, Mehl aims to acknowledge the possibility of pluralism in existential identities. By demanding sensitivity to the deep ways social and cultural context influences human perception, interpretation and self?representation, Mehl argues that Kierkegaard is not simply discovering but also participating in a cultural construction of the human being. _x000B_Drawing on accounts of what it is to be a person by prominent philosophers outside of Kierkegaard scholarship, including Charles Taylor, Owen Flanagan, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Thomas Nagel, Mehl also works to bridge the analytic and continental traditions and reestablishes Kierkegaard as a rich resource for situating moral and spiritual identity. This reexamination of Kierkegaard is recommended for anyone interested in what it means to be a person. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09191-9
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Kierkegaard’s Existential Anthropology and the Search for Self
    (pp. 1-12)

    This book is a critical evaluation of Søren Kierkegaardʹs vision of the normatively human and the tactics he uses to defend that vision. It is, to use more contemporary language, an examination of his image of human flourishing and the sorts of epistemic strategies he employs to justify it. But it is more than simply an explication of Kierkegaardʹs thought. I will consider his thought in light of contemporary descriptive and normative accounts of human beings and their moral and religious life. In this light I will argue that Kierkegaardʹs central claims cannot be maintained or, better, cannot be maintained...

  5. 1 Judge William: Strong Evaluative Identity
    (pp. 13-40)

    Either/Orwas Kierkegaardʹs first pseudonymous work and the most popular during his lifetime. In volume two ofEither/Orwe find the letters of Judge William, letters to his younger friend known only as A. The Judge’s second letter is entitled ʺThe Balance between the Esthetic and the Ethical in the Development of the Personality,ʺ and esthetic/ethical is one way to state the basic polarity within which Kierkegaard frames his ideal of selfhood. Throughout his authorship Kierkegaard takes many passes at stating this polarity, which sets the terms for the dynamics of success and failure for humans as they search for...

  6. 2 Johannes Climacus: Spiritual Existence Intensified by Reflection
    (pp. 41-77)

    The ideal of personhood, of the strong spiritual evaluator, runs throughout Kierkegaardʹs authorship. I think that much of this ideal is found in the Judgeʹs letter entitled ʺThe Balance between the Esthetic and the Ethical in the Development of the Personalityʺ examined in the last chapter; even the religious dimension of the ideal is found in nascent form in the Judgeʹs writings. But the later pseudonymous authorship adds to the vision of selfhood by making it even more strenuous, and much of the increase is related to the role of reflection. At this point I want to consider Kierkegaardʹs thought...

  7. 3 Anti-Climacus: Theological Selfhood and the Dialectics of Despair
    (pp. 78-118)

    When it comes to Kierkegaardʹs mature existential vision,The Sickness unto Deathis perhaps his clearest statement. It is also, interestingly enough, given Kierkegaardʹs aversion to systems, his most systematic statement about the conditions of human existence. As I indicated in the last chapter, it is my belief that the epistemological reflections inConcluding Unscientific Postscriptclarified for Kierkegaard just how existence could be thought. The sometimes dizzying reflections of Climacus give way to a more serious analytic earnestness of a religious psychologist with a well thought out message; it is, as Kierkegaard himself says, almost ʺtoo dialecticalʺ for an...

  8. 4 In the Twilight of Modernity: Kierkegaard and Contemporary Reflections on Existential Identity
    (pp. 119-162)

    So where does this analysis of Kierkegaard leave us, those of us who are searching for existential identity by way of Kierkegaard? Thinking after Nietzsche means understanding our situation as one of multiple perspectives with no clearly noncontroversial uncontested framework, a pluralistic context. Perhaps it is this confidence in sociohistorical consciousness over against a confidence in common human experience and reason that signifies that postmodernity has overtaken Enlightenment modernity, that the twilight of modernity has arrived. Although Kierkegaard writes after Hegel, this strong sense of historical consciousness does not yet have the upper hand for him. He is still confident...

  9. Conclusion: Reconstructing Kierkegaard
    (pp. 163-170)

    Kierkegaard, I have argued, is compelled to postulate a transcendent standard as the only adequate measure because he thinks that the human desire for existential orientation can mean onlyultimatesecurity andfinalrest in the flux and contingency of everyday life. But what does the human desire for existential orientation and identity come to? My answer has been that humans need an existential identity because they are radically self-transcending selves and so discover that they have no naturally given standpoint, no unambiguous perspective. Humans find themselves existentially homeless and so seek a home; they seek a life-perspective they can...

    (pp. 171-174)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 175-178)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 179-180)