ODD Circle - Kierkegaard: Why?

derek tatton
27 March 2009

Kierkegaard - Why?
ODD Circle   Tue  31st Mar 09   at The Blue Mugge Pub

Notes using the BBC radio 4 programme In our Time  March 2008 with the title
Kierkegaard -  Fear and Trembling in Copenhagen.

1.  Why discuss Kierkegaard when several of our group have never heard of him and some find ‘intellectual’ and philosophical discussion daunting?    We may begin by re-visiting an earlier basic question:  what have theologians and philosophers done for us?

    Melvyn Bragg’s comments in his Newsletter on the programme make a good starting     point.
2.  ‘K. was the first philosopher I met in my late adolescence who seemed to speak directly and simply to where I … was having difficulty in standing.   His Christianity made it easy to identify with him because I had been brought up in a strong and persistent Anglican tradition… His joust with Reason appealed very much to millions of us then and now and in the future, who wanted  there to be thought and feeling which went beyond reason but could not reason our way to that.’

3.  ’One of the distinguishing marks of K’s work is his love of the paradox.  He wrote:  “One must not think slightingly of the paradoxical for the paradox is the source of the thinker’s passion…”.

4.   ’His view of human existence as a process of becoming rather than simply being a static thing is extraordinarily attractive… the idea of changing from one person to another inside the same body…remains something both attractive and something that feels true.’

5.  The three philosophers on IoT discussed key questions about the significance of K. and his continued relevance.     K’s engagement with Socrates,  believing that ‘Truth happens in the ebb and flow of conversations’, where irony and a dialectical questioning is important.   Dare we claim that this has happened occasionally in The Blue Mugge?

6.  ‘K. was a Christian but against the Church…  Christendom socialised Christianity’  which is essentially about the inner-life.  Institutionalised Christianity inevitably becomes complacent.   K. wants to unsettle that.   .   

7.  K.  ‘…did not reject Reason as such’ but emphasised its limitations, its finite perspectives.
What limits?    Man’s ‘creatureliness’ .   We are temporal beings, always in the process of becoming.  There are elements in this process which cannot be rationalised.   

8.  Socrates believed the Truth was eternal.   For K.  as a Christian,  he believed Christianity is historical and Truth comes into being in that way …  is communicated through stories, for example the Biblical account of  Abraham and Isaac ‘a dialectical lyric’.    Our philosophers find K.  very insightful on ‘love’  (‘the sheer demanding-ness of love’;  ‘love is about duty to yourself as well as to others’)

9.  K  ‘as father of Existentialism’  (the word coined later, 1919 and came into English only in the 1940s).  Sartre - French philosopher, political thinker, atheist  and existentialist - paid tribute to K. in an essay in 1950s. He wrote  ‘It is as difficult to become an atheist as it was for K. to become a Christian’.  What is Existentialism and where is it and K.  placed now?

10.  Has K.  helped us in any way?  

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