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Kierkegaard's Philosophy of Becoming

Movements and Positions

Clare Carlisle

Publication Year: 2005

Søren Kierkegaard’s proposal of “repetition” as the new category of truth signaled the beginning of existentialist thought, turning philosophical attention from the pursuit of objective knowledge to the movement of becoming that characterizes each individual’s life. Focusing on the theme of movement in his 1843 pseudonymous texts Either/Or, Repetition, and Fear and Trembling, Clare Carlisle presents an original and illuminating interpretation of Kierkegaard’s religious thought, including newly translated material, that emphasizes equally its philosophical and theological significance. Kierkegaard complained of a lack of movement not only in Hegelian philosophy but also in his own “dreadful still life,” and his heroes are those who leap, dance, and make journeys—but what do these movements signify, and how are they accomplished? How can we be true to ourselves, let alone to others if we are continually becoming? Carlisle explores these questions to uncover both the philosophical and the literary coherence of Kierkegaard’s notoriously enigmatic authorship.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Theology and Continental Thought

Title Page, Dedication, Copyright

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pp. iii-v


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi

I am grateful to Trinity College, Cambridge, and the University of Cambridge for providing the financial support and resources that enabled me to undertake the research presented here. I also wish to thank the Leverhulme Trust and the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Leeds for my present Research...

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Introduction: The Place and the Path

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pp. 1-6

Movements and Positions first began, and now begins again, with questions about inwardness. This is an essential category for Kierkegaard: “in inwardness” qualifies many of his descriptions of personal, existential truth or authenticity, and applies specifically to the sphere of...


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1. Metaphysics of Motion

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pp. 9-22

The task of becoming a Christian” is the problem and the purpose of Kierkegaard’s whole authorship, and the “becoming” in question here is not incidental or external to its “task” of Christianity, but rather essential to it. A Christian is after all an existing individual, and to exist means to be inescapably in a process of becoming. Kierkegaard’s concern is about how...

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2. The Logic of Becoming

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pp. 23-32

or Aristotle, movement is understood in terms of actualization. The concept of phusis signifies a potentiality, a potency, a power for movement, and kinesis is defined as the process through which this power is expressed. Crucially, kinesis is an inner power that grounds the individuality of existing things. This concept of power echoes repeatedly throughout the subsequent history of...

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3. Kierkegaard’s Critique of Hegel

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pp. 33-45

Having considered how the philosophical question of movement has developed over the very broad historical period from Heraclitus to Hegel, we now shift our focus to the more immediate background to Kierkegaard’s authorship. Kierkegaard was born in 1813—the year that Hegel’s Science of Logic...


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4. Either/Or: Kierkegaard’s Principle of Contradiction

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pp. 49-66

When Kierkegaard published Either/Or in March 1843, its title was already resonant with philosophical significance. As we have seen, the phrase “either/or” had been employed by Danish theologians such as Martensen and Mynster to denote the logical principle of contradiction, in the context of their debate about Hegelian...

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5. Repetition: The Possibility of Motion

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pp. 67-89

Kierkegaard wrote Repetition under the pseudonym “Constantin Constantius,” and published it, together with Johannes de silentio’s Fear and Trembling, on October 16, 1843. It makes sense to approach these two texts as companion pieces, for they are both concerned to reveal a disjunction between philosophy...

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6. Fear and Trembling: A Higher Plane

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pp. 91-110

In Fear and Trembling as in Repetition, the theme of movement pervades the text and helps to illuminate its coherence. This book’s pseudonymous author, Johannes de silentio, explores the biblical story of Abraham’s journey to Mount Moriah in order to sacrifice his son Isaac, discussing in particular the “movements” of resignation and faith...


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7. Becoming a Christian

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pp. 113-125

Our readings of Kierkegaard’s three 1843 texts have brought to light many variations on the theme of movement: metaphors of leaping, dancing, swimming, and sailing; characters who travel, step forward, and pace back and forth; philosophical discussions of kinesis, mediation, and repetition; and reflections on the communicative processes...

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8. Beyond Philosophy?

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pp. 127-135

One of the most important accomplishments of our focus on the theme of movement is to give some insight into Kierkegaard’s relationship to the philosophical tradition, and to illuminate the ambivalence of this relationship. We have seen that the question of motion constitutes, on the one hand, Kierkegaard’s point of contact...

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9. Repetitions

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pp. 137-148

If the theme of movement connects Kierkegaard to the philosophical tradition that precedes him, in particular to Greek metaphysics and to Hegelian thought, it also illuminates the significance of his writing in relation to more recent thinkers. Indeed, one could argue that modern existentialism began in 1843 with the proclamation of repetition as the new category...


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pp. 149-162


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pp. 163-170


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pp. 171-173

E-ISBN-13: 9780791482803
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791465479
Print-ISBN-10: 0791465470

Page Count: 186
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: SUNY series in Theology and Continental Thought

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Kierkegaard, Søren, 1813-1855.
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