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Kierkegaard and Death

Edited by Patrick Stokes and Adam Buben

Publication Year: 2011

Few philosophers have devoted such sustained, almost obsessive attention to the topic of death as Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard and Death brings together new work on Kierkegaard's multifaceted discussions of death and provides a thorough guide to the development, in various texts and contexts, of Kierkegaard's ideas concerning death. Essays by an international group of scholars take up essential topics such as dying to the world, living death, immortality, suicide, mortality and subjectivity, death and the meaning of life, remembrance of the dead, and the question of the afterlife. While bringing Kierkegaard's philosophy of death into focus, this volume connects Kierkegaard with important debates in contemporary philosophy.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The idea for this book emerged over a plate of Chinese pork dumplings in December 2005, just after the Kierkegaard and Asia conference held at the University of Melbourne. Since then the project has been well traveled, with editorial work taking place in Australia, Minnesota, New Mexico, ...


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pp. ix-xvi

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pp. 1-20

On Wednesday, July 29, 1835, two days before the first anniversary of his mother’s death, a twenty-two-year-old theology student writes of his experience of standing atop Gilbjerg Hoved, a small cliff just outside the North Zealand coastal town of Gilleleje: ...

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1. Knights and Knaves of the Living Dead: Kierkegaard's Use of Living Death as a Metaphor for Despair

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pp. 21-43

Among the endlessly repeated motifs of the horror genre, none more reliably evokes a shudder than the idea of the undead, of humans doomed to wander between life and death. This response has a variety of deep psychological sources. Our anxiety in the face of our own mortality plays a part, as ...

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2. To Die and Yet Not Die: Kierkegaard’s Theophany of Death

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pp. 44-64

Confessing in this journal entry from 1848 that, without dying willingly, death would have prevailed over him, Kierkegaard discloses how a life of suffering has prevented death from laying its claim to one who was already dead. Kierkegaard’s appropriation of the Latin aphorism further ...

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3. Christian Hate: Death, Dying, and Reason in Pascal and Kierkegaard

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pp. 65-80

Should Søren Kierkegaard be listed among Christian apologists such as Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, or even Blaise Pascal? Focusing on his connections to Pascal, twentieth-century scholars Denzil G. M. Patrick and José Raimundo Maia Neto claim that Kierkegaard is, in fact, engaged in the ...

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4. Suicide and Despair

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pp. 81-117

The Sickness unto Death. Already the title indicates a deep affliction with the problem of suicide, although the book is presented as a treatise on the modern self in despair. Suicide is not mentioned until a later stage of the analysis, when Kierkegaard suddenly breaks into a short discussion ...

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5. Thinking Death into Every Moment: The Existence-Problem of Dying in Kierkegaard's Postscript

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pp. 101-121

Doing philosophy may be hazardous to your health, resulting in a condition of “absentmindedness” or distraction in which you forget yourself.1 In such a case, philosophy becomes an activity that positively interferes with the age-old Socratic task of attending to and caring for the self, and ...

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6. Death and Ethics in Kierkegaard’s Postscript

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pp. 122-132

One of the aims of Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript is to recover an “ancient” model of ethics—“the subjective ethics,” or “the so called subjective ethical” (CUP, 1:144–47/SKS 7, 134–36)—and defend it against the “objective” approach that has become the norm “in modern...

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7. The Intimate Agency of Death

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pp. 133-149

Midway through his fluid meditations in Moby Dick, Melville presents us with a particularly hair-raising incident. A fourteenth-century British commander has conquered a French town and demands his fair tribute in victory. He asks for six citizens to step forward to be hanged. The mayor ...

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8. A Critical Perspective on Kierkegaard’s “At a Graveside”

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pp. 150-159

This short chapter is faceted to one text—Kierkegaard’s “At a Graveside.” While Kierkegaard’s thoughts on death spill across his corpus, I believe that this nonpseudonymous discourse, published in 1845, is his most straightforward and sustained reflection on what might be termed Kierkegaard’s ...

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9. Life-Narrative and Death as the End of Freedom: Kierkegaard on Anticipatory Resoluteness

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pp. 160-183

In three recent articles, John Lippitt has raised important questions about the notions that human selves have a “narrative” structure and that the natural development of our capacity for robust selves (including autonomy and ethical maturity) involves achieving “narrative unity” in the ...

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10. Heidegger and Kierkegaard on Death: The Existentiell and the Esistential

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pp. 184-203

The jury is still out on the nature and extent of Kierkegaard’s influence on the early Heidegger, including his magnum opus Being and Time (1927) as well as his lectures and writings prior to that work. In the “Foreword” to the 1972 edition of his “Early Writings” in German, Heidegger speaks of those “exciting years between 1910 and 1914” when, together with the ...

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11. Kierkegaard, Levinas, Derrida: The Death of the Other

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pp. 204-218

“A free man thinks of nothing less than of death”1 according to proposition 47 of Spinoza’s Ethics, in which death is portrayed as a saddening thought, one which, moreover, depletes our potential to work and to think. The refusal to think about death, and specifically its association with sadness ...

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12. Derrida, Judge William, and Death

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pp. 219-232

In this chapter, I attempt to take seriously Derrida’s reading of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling in The Gift of Death.1 In particular, I focus on Derrida’s claim that all universalizing ethical systems involve an evasion of responsibility for one’s actions. As Derrida sees it, this has important ...

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13. The Soft Weeping of Desire’s Loss: Recognition, Phenomenality, and the One Who Is Dead in Kiergegaard's Works of Love

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pp. 233-252

In the ninth chapter of the second set of deliberations in Works of Love, Kierkegaard writes the following words: “I know of no better way to describe true recollection than by this soft weeping that does not burst into sobs at one moment—and soon subsides. No, we are to recollect the ...

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14.Duties to the Dead? Earnest Imagination and Remembrance

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pp. 253-273

Perhaps nothing in Kierkegaard’s writings has proven quite as polarizing as Works of Love. The reception of this work has been characterized by perennial charges that it articulates an inhuman, acosmic, inward-looking vision of ethical life. These criticisms famously begin with Adorno, who claims ...

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15. Kierkegaard’s Understanding of the Afterlife

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pp. 274-298

Kierkegaard believed that he would experience a postmortem existence. Direct evidence for his belief may be found in his personal, pseudonymous, and signed writings. At the age of thirty-two, Kierkegaard wrote detailed instructions for the repair of his family’s burial site. Among his ...


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pp. 299-302


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pp. 303-316

E-ISBN-13: 9780253005342
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253356857

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion