Archive for the ‘Kierkegaard’ Category

Kierkegaard on communism

Over the past week, I’ve been entrenched in Joakim Garff’s biography of Kierkegaard. Here is an interesting note regarding Kierkegaard’s impromptu response to the King of Denmark over the king’s worries about communism:

It will be a battle between one class and another, but it would always be in the interest of the hostile parties to have good relations with the monarch. The same problem had occurred in ancient times and was recurring now, and it was easy to see that the king would in a way be beyond the fray. There would be hostilities like those in a house, between the cellar and the ground floor and between these two and the next floor, et cetera, but they would not attack the landlord.

Garff, Kierkegaard, pg. 483

I’m not sure exactly what to make of this, other than the fact that apparently Kierkegaard was not very well informed about communism in 1847 (when this encounter with the king took place).

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I’m reading Kierkegaard’s excellent Two Ages right now, a book in which Kierkegaard offers an aesthetic interpretation of the work of Danish novelist Thomasine Gyllembourg (the book is at first a review of her work Two Ages, but also reviews other works of hers). After the review, Kierkegaard turns to critique the present age, which is what most commentators (including myself) read the book for.

I’ve just finished a part where Kierkegaard describes a fight that he witnessed, and I find it particularly humorous and difficult to imagine, especially the part where Kierkegaard describes his intervention.

I once witnessed a fight in which three men shamefully mistreated a fourth. The crowd watched with indignation; their hostile muttering began to spur them to action: some of the crowd converged on one of the assailants and threw him down, etc. The avengers thereby exemplified the same law as the assailants. If I may be permitted to interject my own incidental person, I will finish the story. I approached one of the avengers and attempted to explain dialectically the inconsistency of their behavior, but apparently it was quite impossible for him to engage in anything like that, and he merely repeated: “He had it coming. Such a scoundrel deserves three against one.” This borders on the comic, especially for the person who did not witness the beginning and then heard one man say of the other that he (the lone man) was three against one, and heard it the very moment when the opposite was the case–when there were three against him. In the first situation there was the comedy of contradiction in the same sense as “when the watchman said to a solitary person: Please break it up! Disperse!” The second situation had the comedy of self-contradiction. I gathered, however, that it was probably best for me to surrender all hope of ending this scepticism lest it be continued against me.

Kierkegaard, Two Ages (Princeton UP), pg 87.

Perhaps in the coming years we will see a new kind of superhero, who explains (dialectically) the inconsistency of bad guys’ actions.

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Although I’ve already communicated this to several friends of the blog, the lack of substance to post about amidst my final few weeks as an undergrad compels me to make a public announcement on the blog: I have accepted an offer to work towards an MA in philosophy at Duquesne University this fall. This still feels rather surreal, after the whirlwind process, and I’m not quite sure how to adjust to being finished with the search/waiting. I’m excited to get started at Duquesne, and also excited that I will have the opportunity to do coursework on Kierkegaard immediately.

In the end, I had offers from 5 MA programs to choose from, and eliminating any one of them wasn’t an easy choice. As I began to look at probable seminars, I came to realize that Duquesne was an even better fit than I imagined for myself when I started the search about 8 months ago. In conjunction with living costs and the fact that I love Pittsburgh and have always wanted to live in the city (I grew up in the suburbs), Duquesne became an obvious choice near the end. There are many other exciting opportunities at Duquesne, but more of that in due time. I am contemplating doing a series of posts on grad school in philosophy this summer, similar to some of the theology resources in the blogosphere.

Also, I’ve said this on the blog before, but now I have some official idea: this summer I will be studying at the Hong Kierkegaard Library in Northfield, Minnesota. I will first have the pleasure of attending the Sixth International Kierkegaard Conference from June 27th-July 1st. After this, I’ll spend the rest of July in Minnesota with a group of grad students and professors studying Kierkegaard. I will be working on questions about Kierkegaard and the political. I may possibly have some blog posts on that as I prepare early in the summer by reading The Point of View and Two Ages.

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Students of Kierkegaard hardly need an introduction to the name Howard Hong. He has been unquestionably one of the most important Kierkegaard scholars working in English for the past several decades. News of his death is saddening, but he lived a full life, passing away at the age of 98. Howard Hong was not only a translator of all of Kierkegaard’s work–he was a mentor to young scholars and has done as much as anyone to continue to advance Kierkegaard scholarship. He will be missed.

More information can be found here.

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I’m looking for some quick assistance from someone who has a copy of Schmitt’s Political Theology, or at the very least, more knowledge of Agamben that I have. At the beginning of Homo Sacer, Agamben quotes a lengthy passage from Schmitt, and within this quote, Schmitt quotes a “protestant theologian” who refers to the general and the exception. It’s clear that this person is Kierkegaard, but there is no citation for it other than his name in the index. Here is the Kierkegaard quote:

The exception explains the general and itself. And when one really wants to study the general, one need only look around for a real exception. It brings everything to light more clearly than the general itself. After a while, one becomes disgusted with the endless talk about the general – there are exceptions. If they cannot be explained, then neither can the general be explained. Usually the difficulty is not noticed, since the general is thought about not with passion but only with comfortable superficiality. The exception, on the other hand, thinks the general with intense passion.

The citation for the Schmitt quote is pages 19-22 from Political Theology, but I think it might be Agamben’s own translation of the 1922 Duncker & Humbolt version, so the pages might not match up. I’m guessing that the quotation might be from Sickness Unto Death or the notebooks, but I cannot even explore my guess because my Kierkegaard books are at school.

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