restricted access Kierkegaard and the Existential Philosophy (review)
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392 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY admit that this is so and that his own interpretations are but a first effort to explore the opus posturnum systematically; but it is a profound and a challenging effort. I said earlier that Lehmann's book consists of four groups of essays; so far, however , I have dealt only with three groups. The fourth group consists of only one essay and can be regarded as a postscript to the whole discussion. It is a highly suggestive sketch of a Kant biography and contains enough new perspectives and facts to deserve close attention. Apparently the real biography of the "Sage of K6nigsberg" has yet to be written. W. H. WERKMEISTER The Florida State University Kierkegaard and the Existential Philosophy. By Lev Shestov. Trans. by Elinor Hewitt. (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1969. Pp. 314. $10.00) Lev Shestov's passionate work on Kierkegaard had previously been available in a German translation from the Russian, published in 1949. Time has not been generous to this seminal exploration of the basic themes of Kierkegaard's existentialism, and this translation of Shestov's work arrives too late. Rather than dealing with specific details of Kierkegaard's subtle analyses of ethical existence and faith, Shestov paints a large canvas which is dramatic, effusive, and often repetitive. This evocative study of Kierkegaard is an early, emotional, passionate reaction to the "existential philosophy" which Shestov unfortunately identifies exclusively with Kierkegaard's religious sphere of existence. The basic thrust of Shestov's impressionistic study is to indicate the conflict between "existential philosophy," or Kierkegaard's concept of faith, and the rationalism which, it is assumed, supports a necessitarian conception of reality. Throughout his variegated essays (which, in effect, are belletristic cameos which barely touch upon the details of Kierkegaard's own phenomenological analyses of freedom, the dialectical tension of existence, and faith) Shestov repeats a number of fundamental themes which he claims are central to Kierkegaard's thought. Although he speaks with a kind of authority about the spirit of Kierkegaard's existentialism, one is often jarred by his casual approach to the letter of Kierkegaard's existential communications. Thus, for example, Shestov writes a chapter on "The Movement of Faith" which never really tackles Kierkegaard's philosophical approach to faith in terms of the "movements" which comprise a complex spiritual dialectic characterized by a teleology which owes as much to Aristotle (the notion of spiritual movements being directly derived from Aristotle's more general conception of kin~sis) as it does to Socrates' subjective inwardness or lnderligheden. In regard to the centrality of Kierkegaard's faith that for God "everything is possible" Shestov is surely correct insofar as one is dealing exclusively with the religious sphere of existence. But even this notion-which, from a psychological point of view, Shestov grasps so well--is given the status of a revealed truth whereas, in point of fact, it is but a possibility for Kierkegaard himself. For Kierkegaard, as Shestov fails to mention, all "movement" (and, hence, a [ortiori, spiritual movement) takes place in temporality, in finitude. Too often Shestov is too facile in equating Dostoevsky's repudiation of mathematical certainty with Kierkegaard 's revolt against reason and, as it is said again and again, the "power of necessity." Kierkegaard was not, as Shestov suggests repeatedly, "horrified" by objective truths, by necessary truths; rather, he admits the legitimate role of objective knowledge in logic, BOOK REVIEWS 393 mathematics, and in world history, but proclaims that subjectivity has its own truths as well. Again, Kierkegaard does not relate necessity and nothingness (p. 111). How could he, when he refers to the "nothingness of possibility" in The Concept o/ Dread? While writing with a robust confidence about what Kierkegaard means, Shestov too often projects into Kierkegaard's thought what he believes is there. A scrupulous reader of Kierkegaard will find that many of the pronunciamentos in this book are simply gratuitous---e.g., Kierkegaard turns away from the rationalism and ethics of Aristotle (this is clearly false in regard to Kierkegaard's description of ethical existence ); only faith can vanquish the "necessity which entered the world and gained control of it through reason" (p. 20) (this is...