News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Kierkegaard Carnival III

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kierkegaard Carnival III

Welcome to the December 23, 2007 edition of The Kierkegaard Carnival. After a long hiatus, I am proud to present the most recent issue of the Kierkegaard Carnival.

This edition continues in the tradition of the past two installments. The blog postings are diverse in their range of topics and include academic postings to those from non-academic bloggers, from pastoral to the everyday. The subjects chosen reflect not only those that some might consider relevant to a 19th century Dane but those that speak to the face of every day.

While there's much to thank for the ingenuity of these authors' intelligent remarks, it is the melancholy Dane's vibrant spirit that happily haunts this Christmas edition of the Carnival staged in his name. In the names of Christmases past, present, and future, it is perhaps a note of sobriety that Kierkegaard brings to the riot of Xmas greed and consumerism. I can only hope that this sobriety works as meant: not to strangle the child in its crib but to liberate the hosannas in the heavens and on earth and bring freedom and peace.

The continuing diversity exhibited by admirers of Kierkegaard's thought relates tangentially to the accusation of Levinas that Kierkegaard, like Nietzsche, practiced a "philosophy of the hammer." While it's debatable whether Kierkegaard was even a philosopher in the academic sense, it is a charge that many agree with.

From his "ambush from behind" of the Hegelian blitzkrieg through history, to his so-called attack on Christendom, Kierkegaard brought into play a formidable array of rhetorical and logical weapons against his adversaries. Yet, as Mark Dooley argues in The Politics of Statehood vs. A Politics of Exodus: A Critique of Levinas’s Reading of Kierkegaard, Kierkegaard did not only marshal an acidic wit against those who exercised power irresponsibly in the name of a bastardized religious sentiment. For those without the trappings and arsenals of real politique at their beck and call, the weak and despised at the margins, Kierkegaard had words of consolation and upbuilding. At the same time that he undermined the ideological systems of Hegel and much of western metaphysics and theology, he wrote in his discourses words that brought comfort and love.

There are some who take Kierkegaard's attack on Christendom as a major plank in a program of defense for what is commonly called western civilization. In the name of a neo-orthodox theology, this program sets itself against what it perceives as an attack from anti-civilizational forces whose malevolence is identified with the forces of Satan himself.

The theologian Richard Neuhaus, for example, has written kindly of a recent translation of Kierkegaard's Training in Christianity (a work perhaps more accurately titled Practice in Christianity, as Howard and Edna Hong translate it). Neuhaus is a member of that contemporary contingent of Christian apologists for the political ideology of the neocons. This movement has earned the title of Theocons.

Neuhaus' reading of Kierkegaard is perhaps best explained by the translation of Practice in Christianity on which he bases his foreword. By the estimable Lutheran cleric, Walter Lowrie, the translation often does read like a defense of neo-Orthodox theo-political thought. Yet, as commentators have shown, Lowrie's translations are more conservative socially and theologically than the Danish text allows. Perhaps Lowrie was only partially to blame, however, for this conservative slant. Historian Bruce Kirmmse has argued (persuasively I believe) that the effort to paint Kierkegaard as a defender of the conservative status quo was begun by literary executors while the thinker's body was still warm in the grave.

Neuhaus would argue that such work as Kirmmse's is at best academic nitpicking and at worst historical revisionism, most likely in the name of a Liberal, if not Leftist, ideological agenda. I cannot go into details here, but one can find in commentators such as Hannay, Dooley, Pattison, and Westphal an awareness that Kierkegaard's thought evolved over time. Going from a fairly aristocratic conservatism to a more and more radically social Gospel, Kierkegaard's work shows a growing awareness that to defeat the Kingdom of Satan one must attack the gatekeepers and their clerical minions. His final words against the ruling church hierarchy was therefore an attempt to bring down the edifice of institutional Christianity--Christendom--by undermining one of those pressure points of solidified power that Foucault investigates.

Neuhaus' reading--and those who would join his ranks--of Kierkegaard is not only ideologically based but based in such a way as to violate the text and the spirit of Kierkegaard's thought. While the patriots of monology despise any notion that every human act is tainted with ideology, I would suggest that this idea works its way throughout the Dane's work. I'd even be so bold as to assert that Kierkegaard would ask whether anything is ever non-ideologically based. In various guises as angst, purity of heart, despair--social conditioning and human sinfulness corrupt the heart and leave none innocent.

We all indeed stand sinful in God's eyes.

Blog Postings

Kierkegaard and Aesthetics

  • Kyle presents Hero of the Subjective posted at Post Classic.

  • The Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer once criticized Kierkegaard for underplaying the role that aesthetics plays in a religious life. This piece explores the struggles of an artist with some of the Dane's writings, struggles I think many of us can identify with.

Kierkegaard and Bible

Kierkegaard and Heidegger on Dread (Angst)

  • Michael presents Dread in Kierkegaard posted at Le gai savoir.
    A comprehensive review of Kierkegaard's concept of anxiety and how the German philosopher Martin Heidegger used it in his book, Being and Time. This is a subject that has been investigated by other commentators who note Heidegger's unacknowledged debt to Kierkegaard. Like Sartre, Heidegger relied heavily on Kierkegaard's "Concept of Anxiety," though Dreyfus thinks that Kierkegaard's Christian Discourses was more influential. Be sure to follow the rest of Michael's series on this fascinating topic at the Kierkegaard Label page.
  • Lars presents The Other Kierkegaard posted at Spurious.
    An introspective, anti-realist dialog with Kierkegaard and other non-presences, living and dead. An imaginative and evocative dialog that calls up a side of Kierkegaard's spirit, perhaps not least his concern of love for the dead, the most perfect work of love.

Kierkegaard on Love and Ethics

Kierkegaard and Theism

Fear and Trembling

  • Stephen presents Kierkegaard posted at Stephen Law
    A short "Introduction to Kierkegaard on the Knight of Faith." Provides critical remarks on Kierkegaard, with a few questions that any Kierkegaardian should be ready to confront and try to answer.
  • Rick presents Soren Kierkegaard and Ethics posted at Ikant; A Refutation of Moral Relativism.
    Explores the dilemmas posed by Kierkegaard's ethico-religious sphere. Fear and Loathing has always threatened to erupt into the personal lives of its reader's. It probably cuts as close as any writing can to real flesh and bone. The author of this piece leaves some open questions that any reader of Kierkegaard should work to answer.
  • Geoffrey presents thoughts on Kierkegaard and faith... posted at Shadows Veil Our Eyes....
    Personal reflections on how Kierkegaard's Abraham intersects everyday life.

Kierkegaard for Living

Book Review

  • Chris presents Fear and Trembling(Penguin Books, Great Ideas Series, ISBN 0-14-303757-9) posted at Only a Game.

  • Reviews the book that breaks the back of Hegelian pretensions to Xtian religious hegemony.

Kierkegaard and Politics

  • Charles presents Texas George Rex Judas at the cynic librarian.

  • A diatribe that calls it as the writer sees it. Contains a Kierkegaardian reading of present-day events, perhaps relying too heavily on the background work of Matustik and Huntington. The background on Kierkegaard starts after the Introduction.

Online Resource

For numerous online articles about Kierkegaard, don't forget to visit Online Kierkegaard Links

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of kierkegaard carnival using our carnival submission form.

Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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