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Kierkegaard's Romantic Legacy

Two Theories of the Self

Anoop Gupta

Publication Year: 2005

In Kierkegaard's Romantic Legacy, Anoop Gupta develops an original theory of the self based on Kierkegaard's writings. Gupta proceeds by historical exegesis and considers several important ways of thinking about self outside of the natural sciences. His study moves theories of the self from theology toward sociology, from a God-relationship to a social one, and illustrates how a loss in theological underpinnings partly contributes to the rise in the popularity of cultural relativism. By drawing on Kierkegaard's writings, Gupta develops a metaphysical account of the self that provides an alternative to the idea that there is no such thing as human nature.

Published by: University of Ottawa Press

Series: Philosophica

Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

QUITE SOME TIME HAS ELAPSED between my writing this manuscript and the bringing of it to print. I began research on it in 1996, while a master's committee was contemplating my thesis. I continued to revise it after my doctorate, ten years after its initial inception. I am pleased it was allowed to...

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Search for the Kierkegaardian Self

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pp. 1-4

Historically, the romantics reacted against the imposition of reason, by which they meant something akin to the naturalist methods of science. Scientism can be understood as an extreme form of naturalism. A. Brook and R. Stainton, in a useful account of the variety of naturalisms, write of the extreme version...


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pp. 5

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1. Structure of the Self

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pp. 7-14

FOR KIERKEGAARD, though we must make our selves, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. His understanding of self fits well with the ethos of Aristotelian metaphysics, where what a thing is is defined by what it is meant to be. I shall argue, therefore, that the proper perspective for understanding the...

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2. Self-Becoming

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pp. 15-24

IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER, the self was to some extent described as a fixed structure. However, as the self is always in the process of becoming, development is an essential feature of the self. Kierkegaard's theory of human development comprises three stages: the aesthetic, the ethical, and...

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3. The God-Relationship

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pp. 25-37

I SHALL ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN WHY, according to Kierkegaard, we have to adopt the religious mode of existence in order to find fulfilment. We need to understand why self-development cannot come to fruition at the ethical stage. In this chapter, we will see that for Kierkegaard a relationship to God is the only...

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4. Self and Knowledge

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pp. 39-47

IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER, I explained why, according to Kierkegaard, we have to obtain a relationship to God. I shall now examine the contention that the individual's development reaches its termination in an epistemic situation, that of faith. Yet, I shall attempt to explain how Kierkegaard's claim—that he...

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5. Reflections and Appraisals

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pp. 49-57

USING BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION to assess an argument is regarded as a fallacious line of reasoning, the infamous ad hominem attack. When dealing with the writings of Kierkegaard, however, two reasons allow us to bypass the rule. First, examining Kierkegaard's life can be instructive in understanding...


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pp. 59

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6. Rousseau

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pp. 61-68

BORN IN 1772, Rousseau is famous for his treatise on education, Emile, and the Social Contract, where he seems to defend individual autonomy from the imposition of society; thus, he has often been thought a romantic. In Rousseau's account of the self we witness the tension between a theological and social...

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7. Durkheim

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pp. 69-75

I SHALL DETAIL Durkheim's account of the self as a reflection of society, whereby the theological underpinnings, discussed earlier, recede into the background. Durkheim, the founder of the first school of sociological thought, shares with the romantics a critique of modernity. Yet, he differs...

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8. Winnicott

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pp. 77-82

D. W. WlNNICOTT, a psychoanalyst, proposes the following three stages of self-development: dependence, independence, and interdependence. On Winnicott's account, the ground of the self is located within the world of social relations. Nevertheless, he contends, "Human nature does not change." I shall...


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pp. 83

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9. The Idea of Suicide

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pp. 85-89

IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER, I argued that there are important commonalities between the theological and sociological conceptions of the self. However, these respective approaches have yielded vastly different consequences for practice. To appreciate the legacy of the Romantic movement with respect to theories...

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10. Suicide and Schizophrenia

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pp. 91-98

FROM THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY ONWARD, schizophrenia, like suicide, has been presented as a phenomenon needing scientific explanation. Schizophrenia was to psychologists what suicide was for sociologists. I shall further probe the effects upon practice in dealing with suicide and, then, schizophrenia, by adopting...

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11. Existential Psychology

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pp. 99-106

AT THE END OF CHAPTER 8, I pointed out that the theological and sociological accounts of the self have commonalities that allow me to categorize them as being generically Kierkegaardian when considering their recent consequences for practice. Though, of course, both approaches would have...

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12. The Self According to Kierkegaard

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pp. 107-109

IT IS NECESSARY to understand both my conclusions and how I arrived at them. We shall thus retrace our steps and summarize the findings. I shall provide a brief overview of the different ways the self has been configured in my study. Finally, I will roughly highlight the benefits of viewing the self along...


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pp. 111-127


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pp. 129-131

Name Index

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pp. 133

E-ISBN-13: 9780776616179
E-ISBN-10: 077661617X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780776606163
Print-ISBN-10: 0776606166

Page Count: 142
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Philosophica