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Introduction: Kierkegaard, the Individual and Society

  • George Pattison
  • Steven Shakespeare

Abstract

The essays collected here are a selection from among those delivered at the 1995 conference of the Søren Kierkegaard Society of the United Kingdom, entitled ‘Kierkegaard: Person and Polis after Modernism’. More sharply than the conference itself, the essays focus on issues relating to readings of Kierkegaard that go beyond the stereotype of Kierkegaard as the archetypical and apolitical individualist. There is, of course, a long history of debate as to the nature and extent of Kierkegaard’s social and political concerns and it therefore seems useful to preface the present volume with a summary of some of the main positions that have been taken in the course of this history of reception.

Keywords

Critical Theory Social Ethic Political Thought Mass Society Marxist Critic 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    W. Lowrie, Kierkegaard (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1938) p. 365.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    For a vigorous statement of a diametrically opposite interpretation of Kierkegaard, one which sees him as proclaiming a Christianity without the Church, see Bruce H. Kirmmse’s essay in this volume as well as comments on his Kierkegaard in Golden Age Denmark and on Kresten Nordentoft’s Hvad Siger Brand-Majoren? In his article ‘Tordenveiret: Søren Kierkegaards ekklesiologi’ (published in H. R. Iversen (ed.), Vinduer til Guds Rige [Copenhagen: Anis, 1995])Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Douglas V. Steere, ‘Introduction’ to S. Kierkegaard (trans. Swenson), Works of Love (London: Oxford University Press, 1946) p. xiii.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    M. Plekon, ‘Kierkegaard the Theologian: The Roots of His Theology in Works of Love’, in G. B. Connell and C. S. Evans (eds.), Foundations of Kierkegaard’s Vision of Community (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Humanities Press, 1992) p. 4.Google Scholar
  5. 14.
    John Elrod, Kierkegaard and Christendom (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981) p. xviii.Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    J. Elrod, ‘The Social Dimension of Despair’, in Robert L. Perkins (ed.), International Kierkegaard Commentary: The Sickness Unto Death (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987) p. 109.Google Scholar
  7. 19.
    K. Nordentoft, Hvad Siger Brand-Majoren? (Copenhagen: Gad, 1973) p. 138.Google Scholar
  8. 20.
    Bruce H. Kirmmse, Kierkegaard in Golden Age Denmark (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990) pp. 2–3.Google Scholar
  9. J. Bukdahl, Søren Kierkegaard og den menige Mand (Copenhagen: Reitzel, 1962 [3rd. edn].Google Scholar
  10. 24.
    S. Crites, In the Twilight of Christendom: Hegel vs Kierkegaard on Faith and History (Chambersburg, PA: American Academy of Religion, 1972) p. 2.Google Scholar
  11. 30.
    Nerina Jansen, ‘The Individual versus the Public: A Key to Kierkegaard’s Views of the Daily Press’, in Robert L. Perkins (ed.), International Kierkegaard Commentary: The Corsair Affair (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1990) pp. 1–21Google Scholar
  12. 31.
    A’ social’ application of Kierkegaard’s dialectics of communication is also hinted at in the closing section of George Pattison’s Kierkegaard: The Aesthetic and the Religious (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992) pp. 185f.Google Scholar
  13. 32.
    John Elrod, ‘Passion, Reflection and Particularity’, pp. 1-18; and Michael Plekon, ‘Towards Apocalypse: Kierkegaard’s Two Ages in Golden Age Denmark’, pp. 19-52, both in Robert L. Perkins (ed.) International Kierkegaard Commentary: Two Ages (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  14. 34.
    D. McCracken, The Scandal of the Gospels: Jesus, Story, and Offense (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994)Google Scholar
  15. 35.
    See M. Buber, ‘The Question to the Single One’, in Between Man and Man (London: Fontana, 1961).Google Scholar
  16. S.H. Bergman, Dialogical Philosophy from Kierkegaard to Buber (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  17. 36.
    See A. Fryzsman, ‘Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky Seen through Bakhtin’s Prism’, in Kierkegaardiana 18 (1996); G. Pattison, ‘A Dialogial Approach to the Upbuilding Discourses’, in Zeitschrift für Neuere Theologiegeschichte, Bd. 3, 1996, pp. 185–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 37.
    M. Westphal, Kierkegaard’s Critique of Reason and Society (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987) p. viii.Google Scholar
  19. 40.
    B. Henningsen, The Politics of the Individual (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1977).Google Scholar
  20. 44.
    H. Marcuse, Reason and Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1941) pp. 262–3.Google Scholar
  21. 45.
    Ibid., pp. 264-6. In similar vein the Soviet philosopher Bernard Bukhovskii quotes a Harvard University Health Services report to the effect that ‘The great disease of our age is aimlessness, boredom and lack of meaning and purpose in living.’ Is it any wonder, he asks, that Kierkegaardian irrationalism should be so widely embraced in such a decadent capitalist culture? See B. Bukhovskii, ‘Kierkegaard’, in D. H. DeGrood (ed.), Philosophical Currents, Vol. 16 (Amsterdam: Grüner, 1976Google Scholar
  22. 53.
    Idem., ‘Kierkegaard and Critical Theory’, in M. Matuštík and M. Westphal (eds.), Kierkegaard in Post/Modernity (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1995) p. 206.Google Scholar
  23. 56.
    A. Hannay, Kierkegaard (London: Routledge, 1982) p. 278.Google Scholar
  24. 58.
    M. Matuštík, Postnational Identity: Critical Theory and Existential Philosophy in Habermas, Kierkegaard and Havel (New York and London: The Guilford Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  25. 60.
    Ronald L. Hall, Word and Spirit: A Kierkegaardian Critique of the Modern Age (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1993), p. 7.Google Scholar
  26. 62.
    P Fenves, “Chatter”: Language and History in Kierkegaard (Stanford, CA: Stanford Unviersity Press, 1993) p. 238.Google Scholar
  27. 63.
    H. Ferguson, Søren Kierkegaard’s Religious Psychology (London: Routledge, 1995) p. 35.Google Scholar
  28. 65.
    S. Agacinski, Aparté: Conceptions and Deaths of Søren Kierkegaard (Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University Press, 1988) p. 199.Google Scholar
  29. 67.
    L. Mackey, ‘Deconstructing the Self: Kierkegaard’s Sickness Unto Death’, in The Anglican Theological Review 71 (1989), p. 155.Google Scholar
  30. 68.
    Mark C. Taylor, Altarity (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1987) p. 342.Google Scholar
  31. 69.
    P Bigelow, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Writing (Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University Press, 1987) p. 187.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Pattison
  • Steven Shakespeare

There are no affiliations available

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