Category Archives: kierkegaard

upcoming paper at UCF

In early April i’ll be leaving full-time residence in the UK and moving back to Orlando, FL to have free rent, finish writing my PhD, and hopefully get some teaching work. Luckily, I’ve been invited to give a colloqium paper in the department of philosophy at the University of Central Florida on April 14th. If any readers are in the central Florida area, I encourage you to come. Here are the details of the paper I’ll be giving:

Title: Anxious Ontology: Reading Søren Kierkegaard between Idealism and Materialism

Abstract: In much of the recent secondary literature, Søren Kierkegaard has been read as pre-figuring much of what took place in 20th century European philosophy. Often this reading places Kierkegaard in a philosophical lineage that came to be embodied in the ethical, hermeneutic, and deconstructive methods which are often considered to be parts of the larger post-modern sensibility of 20th century philosophy. In this paper I will break from this tradition of considering Kierkegaard’s relation to 20th century philosophical trends by considering him in both the 19th century context of German Idealism and the recent 21st century turn to speculative, or transcendental, materialism. In particular, I will focus on Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety, reading this text both as a response to theories of immediacy emerging in German Idealism and as pre-figuring recent materialist re-considerations of Idealism. Along with providing my own attempt at a 21st century reading of Kierkegaard, I will place my argument into dialogue with two recent interpretations of Kierkegaard offered by David Kangas and Slavoj Žižek. At the heart of my argument will be the claim that Kierkegaard’s potential relevance to 21st century debates is dependent on a rigorous re-consideration of his indebtedness to the philosophical climate of the early 19th century.

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my first journal article, now online

please excuse the self promotion, but i was pleasantly surprised to see that an article i’ve written has finally been published in the new issue of the heythrop journal. The article is entitled ‘The Self and Society in Kierkegaard’s Anti-Climacus Writings’, and if you have access you can read it here.

if anyone without access to the journal has interest in reading it, let me know and i can email you a copy.

Lecture in London: Kierkegaard for the 21st Century

for a bit of annoying self promotion…

I’ll be giving a talk at the Roehampton University, London (hosted by the Royal Institute for Philosophy) on March 23rd at 6pm. The title of the talk is Kierkegaard for the 21st Century, and during it I’ll be sketching out what I see as the main problems with the way Kierkegaard was read/used during the 20th century, and outline a new reading of him which puts him in dialogue with what I see as the currents that will shape philosophy in the first part of the 21st century.

If you’re in London and interested, come check it out. Details here.

most overrated philosophers, really?

in the past day or so quite a few bloggers have been throwing out their own candidates for who the most ‘overrated’ philosopher is. i had no intention to get involved in the debate, but just saw this posted on graham’s blog:

 Most overrated of all time: someone I like to read but can’t seem to use… Kierkegaard.

now, this quote doesn’t come from graham himself but rather from someone he knows ‘fairly well’. that said, i find the idea that Kierkegaard is the most overrated philosopher of all time  absolutely absurd. if anything, he has to be near the top of the list for the most underrated philosopher! has someone who works on Kierkegaard, it’s shocking how many people working in philosophy have never really given his work much attention, and it seems if anything most people’s experience with Kierkegaard involves reading Fear and Trembling and maybe Repetition in an undergrad course on existentialism. if the person who sent this to graham “can’t seem to use” Kierkegaard, this is likely their own fault.

along with this, i’m pretty shocked at how many times Sartre’s name has come up in these discussions as well. maybe he was overrated in the 60’s or something, but he’s also one of those figures who seem to be more and more relegated to undergraduate ‘introduction to existentialism’ type courses. and it is also telling that his most serious philosophical work, Critique of Dialectical Reason vols. 1 and 2 is only now starting to get some bits of attention in the english speaking world.

and just to perpetuate the debate, i think Nietzsche, Foucault, and Derrida are three of the most overrated philosophers, at least in the recent continental tradition.

Kierkegaard and the Political

IT just posted an announcement for a day conference/workshop on the topic of ‘Kierkegaard and the Political‘. Those familiar with my work know that this is my area of research, so I may have to check this out. The schedule is as follows:

David Wood, ‘Singular Universal Once again’ (Vanderbilt University, USA)
Christine Battersby, Kierkegaard, ‘The Phantom of the Public and the Sexual Politics of Crowds’ (Warwick University, UK)
Clare Carlisle ‘Kierkegaard and the Question of Freedom’(Liverpool University, UK)
Alison Assiter ‘Love for Strangers: the Sublime and the Poltical’(UWE, UK)

They are charging 40 pounds waged 20 unwaged for this event. (wtf?) So hopefully there is a free lunch and open bar.

‘kierkegaard, metaphysics, and political theory’

my review of Alison Assiter’s recent book on Kierkegaard is now up on the Philosophers Magazine website. You can read it here.

it’s maybe a bit harsh, but at least honest.

affectivity and the human animal in Logics of Worlds

In Logics of Worlds Badiou identifies four affects which signal the incorporation of a human animal into a subjective truth-process. These affects are terror, anxiety, courage, and justice.

The first, terror, “testifies to the desire for a great point” [86]. This point serves as the decisive discontinuity which brings about the new in an instantaneous fashion, and completes the subject in the process. The initial point is the break in a previous situation, or world, which inaugurates the opening of the path into the new one.

The second, anxiety, “testifies to the fear of points” [ibid], in which the human animal fears the choice between two hypotheses which comes with no guarantee. Thus, anxiety, in the Kierkegaardian-Sartrean sense, comes about when the individual (or, human animal) is confronted with the realization of free and contingent choice.

The third, courage, “affirms the acceptance of the plurality of points” [ibid]. Thus, one has the courage to navigate the consequences of an event in the form of points. To once again use Kierkegaard/Sartre as the example, courage is the affect which grips the individual who has overcome the anxiety of contingency and freely willed a decision.

The final affect is justice, which “affirms the equivalence of what is continuous and negotiated, one the one hand, and of what is discontinuous and violent, on the other.” [ibid] To justice, all categories of action are thus subordinated to the absolute contingency of worlds. Justice is thus the affective sign of the egalitarian maxim.

On page 87 of LW he goes on to note that “all affects are necessary in order for the incorporation of a human animal to unfold in a subjective process, so that the grace of being immortal may be accorded to this animal.” Thus, the human animal must go through each affect to enter into the process of ‘becoming-subject’.

While I am excited and intrigued to see Badiou relying so much on language of affect (which was a major lack of Being and Event, see Gillespie, The Mathematics of Novelty, for the best critique of BEin regards to affectivity) in Logics, I am also left wondering what is actually feeling these affects? And along these same lines, how does a/the subject ‘feel’ an affect? Because the subject is non-individual and non-human (as theorized by Badiou), what is it that feels itself feelingthese affects? Is it only a collective subject-body whom is able to feel enthusiasm in regards to an emanciptory political movement? Or can the individual be equally affected by novelty in this respect?

It seems as if theorizing the pre-subjective individual as the ‘human animal’ is problematic in these regards, and it would be more constructive to theorize the existence of the non/pre-subjective ‘human animal’ as the ‘individual self’. By providing a more detailed theorization of this individual self, we can have a self whom is self relational and capable of ‘feeling itself feeling’ theseaffects which subsequently lead it into the subjective process. As anthropocentric as Badiou’s philosphy of the subject is (no matter how much he argues otherwise), it seems as if it’d be more constructive for his whole project if he would just concede to the existence of this originary individual self, which theorized properly is situated in such as a way as to be cable of feeling affects and subsequently enter the process of becoming-subject.

I’m still working my way through (the english edition of) Logics of Worlds, so more thoughts on this to come for sure. Would be interested in hearing what others are making of this language of affect in LW…

Adorno on Kierkegaard

I’ve been aware of, and have been an owner of, Adorno’s Kierkegaard: Construction of the Aesthetic, for some time now, but have just seriously given it a read this week (still only half way through). The first thing that struck me about the work was how seriously Adorno takes Kierkegaard as both a philosopher and a sort of prototype to a ‘critical theorist’. He reads Kierkegaard in such a way as to place him in dialogue with both critical theory and dialectical materialism, and opens up some interesting interpretive windows.

The second thing I’ve noticed (thus far) is how badly he reads Kierkegaard. According to the translators forward, Adorno only had access to limited, and in many cases incorrect, translations, and didn’t have to ability to read Danish. Clearly developing such a polemic and critical study based off limited and poorly translated texts is problematic, and this shines through in the text. The main problem is the lack of any mention of pseudonymity in the work of Kierkegaard. He refers to every textual reference as a direct quote from Kierkegaard himself, and assumes that one can read his authorship as a sort of consistent whole under the authorship of one individual. This is problematic as Kierkegaard uses the pseudonyms to work through the various stages of his thought, and read out of context can be terribly misleading. This error seems to have the most devastating affect on Adorno’s reading in regards to his critique of inwardness, in which he problematically critiques Kierkegaard for offering a sort of bourgeoisie a-social account of the individual subject. In a sense, his critiques seem to prefigure the similar misinterpretation of inwardness in Kierkegaard made by Levinas in ‘Existence and Ethics.’

That said, Adorno does a couple things that are spot on. One is recognizing the ontological undercurrent of Kierkegaard’s authorship, and another is emphasizing repeatedly the necessity of the free and active subject as the bearer of all reality (p.27).

I’m only half way through, so I’m curious to see what he does in the second half of the work. It seems as if rather than being a fair/accurate study of Kierkegaard’s work, Adorno is using Kierkegaard as philosophical material for beginning to work out his own critical project, and his sharing of Kierkegaard’s many key concerns in regards to idealism seem to be a starting point from which Adorno could launch his own critique.

If anyone is remotley interested in this, I just found a critical piece on Adorno’s reading of Kierkegaard that can be read here.

new Kierkegaard texts

As many whom either know me personally, or know this blog digitally, have ascertained, one of my primary areas of interests is the work of Soren Kierkegaard, and specifically in developing a reading of his work which places him in proximity with the political and ontological concerns of the recent materialists (and/or ‘post-phenomenological’) traditions of European, and specifically French Philosophy. That said, there are two recent works which seem to share a similar concern, which is both exciting and encouraging.

The first, written by Latin American (but US based) Theologian Eliseo Pérez-Álvarez, is entitled A Vexing Gadfly: The Late Kierkegaard on Economic Matters.This one is not only interesting as its the first study (at least that I’m aware of) which takes Kierkegaard seriously on economic matters, and its about time. Even more interesting is that the preface to this book was written by liberation philosopher Enrique Dussel, on whom I wrote much of my MA (on liberation philosophy and theology). It’s always exciting when two seemingly disparate research areas converge. Regardless, I’m waiting for this to be available on amazon.co.uk, and I will likely post thoughts as soon as its in my hands.

The other book, written by Alison Assiter of University of West England, is titled Kierkegaard, Metaphyics, and Political Theory. Sadly, this is being published in the Continuum series which constantly publishes interesting sounding text in paperback only editions cost over £50, far out of the economic reach of this books prime audience, PhD students. That said, I’m hoping to get an inter-library-loan copy of this book to read, and I’m really looking forward to it. Taking Kierkegaard seriously in regards to metaphysics and politics is one of the issues which helps get me up in the morning, so its exciting to someone else with a similar concern. I must admit, however, that when I first heard of this book I was afraid that it would render my project un-original, but luckily, what I’ve seen of this work so far seems to be far from what I’m working on.

Regardless, both would be interesting for anyone wanting to reckon with Kierkegaard as a political (and inherently non-postmodern) thinker should give these a read. I’ll try my best to post some notes once I acquire these.

re: journals

After some looking around, I think I’m going to submit the chapter to the heythrop journal, as it’s a journal of philosophy-theology, and looking through the recent issues, has published pieces dealing with fairly interesting continental topics. And as much as I’m more keen to publish a philosophy-as-such journal, almost all of the interesting/important Kierkegaard scholorship in recent years has taken place almost exclusively in theology based journals. This may be because when taught in theology departments, Kierkegaard is more connected to issues of existentialism and phenomenology, while I’ve come across much recently ‘philosophical’ work on Kierkegaard with a heavy analytic taste to it.

that said, if anyone has any good reasons why I should not attempt to submit to heythrop, let me know!