The Mind of Kierkegaard (Princeton Legacy Library) Hardcover – 21 Feb 1984
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The first section provides a biographical sketch composed in the broadest strokes and a description of Kierkegaard's earliest intellectual attitudes. The second section addresses Kierkegaard's fondness for pseudonyms and his theory of the three stages or spheres of life: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious. Kirkegaard's indebtedness to tendencies of the Romantic Period also is discussed. The third section takes a closer examination of the ethical sphere, especially as it is contrasted with the aesthetic sphere in the books of Either/Or and Stages Along Life's Way.
Kierkegaard's thought emerged amidst the maelstrom caused by Hegel, and Kierkegaard adopted a resolutely anti-Hegelian position. This aspect of Kierkegaard's thinking is discussed in the fourth section within the context of a discussion of Philosophical Fragments and Concluding Unscientific Postscript. The fifth section turns to Kierkegaard's placement as one of the earliest existential thinkers, setting him among his contemporaries and his successors. The sixth section looks at Kierkegaard's theory of human nature, and includes sketches of Kierkegaard's politicial and social thought.
Kierkegaard's distinctive contribution to existential philosophy is his enthusiastic embracing of Christianity as a central element of his work, and these aspects of his thought are examined in the final sections of this text. One section is focused on the Christian as a member of Christendom, and a second section takes up a sampling of Kierkegaard's ideas applied to five specific notions from Christian theology.
Even when discussing specific works such as Either/Or or Philosophical Fragments, this text provides little in the way of exegesis of these works. The author selects a theme, and the text addresses how the works in question relate to the theme under discussion. No prior knowledge of Kierkegaard's work is assumed, but some familiarity with German idealist philosophy in particular and the history of philosophy in general would be helpful. Some acquaintance with late western intellectual history is assumed by this text.
The writing is clear and lucid, and the book is well organized. The text concludes with a good annotated bibliography, but because the last update was written in 1983, it obviously is dated at this point in time. Nevertheless, the reader is provided with enough substance for further study.
My chief complaint is that the material is thin. So much more could have been said that would have enriched this book considerably; at 268 pages, the content was anemic compared with the promise of the title. Kierkegaard certainly left behind a body of work that would have benefitted from a much more thorough treatment, and even those works that were discussed deserved a deeper analysis than was given here. Those looking for "A Beginner's Guide to Kierkegaard" should look elsewhere.
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