Introduction to Kierkegaard: Doubt, Anxiety, and the Human Condition
For his exploration of concepts such as subjectivity, anxiety, and absurdity, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard is frequently regarded as the father of existentialism. In this four-week course, we will undertake a rigorous introduction to Kierkegaard’s thought by focusing on four key texts, three pseudonymous and one published under Kierkegaard’s own name. As we read, we will take up questions central to Kierkegaard’s thought—and basic to the human condition: What does it mean to be a subject, an individual, a person who lives authentically? What are the risks of being human?
We will begin with Fear and Trembling (an imaginative meditation on the Akedah, the story of the binding of Isaac in Genesis) and Sickness unto Death (an examination of despair). Then we will turn to “In Vino Veritas,” an excerpt on love from Stages on Life’s Way (written in imitation of Plato’s Symposium). Our concluding text will be The Present Age (a critique of the passionlessness of a society dominated by useless chatter and the overcoming of authentic subjectivity in “the crowd”). In addition to supplying an orientation to key ideas in the work of the “Melancholy Dane,” this course will provide crucial background for understanding many significant figures in twentieth-century philosophy and theology, including Martin Heidegger, Emmanuel Lévinas, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Karl Barth.
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm PDT
July 22 — August 12, 2020