Year of Publication

2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Dr. J. Daniel Breazeale

Abstract

Kierkegaard is generally regarded as a quintessential individualist who leaves no room for social or political engagement. This interpretation is the dominant lens through which many scholars view Kierkegaard, and it also shapes the way Kierkegaard’s thought has been received by his followers and critics. Many recent works have significantly challenged the traditional interpretation of Kierkegaard, but they have not examined the topic systematically. In order to remedy this deficit, this study provides a holistic account of Kierkegaard’s social thought. First, it challenges the dominant view that society as represented by the crowd is simply a foil for Kierkegaard’s individual by: (a) articulating a general approach for understanding how Kierkegaard’s negative comments about society and community do not constitute a rejection of sociality as such, and (b) demonstrating that Kierkegaard’s well-developed ideas on faith and religiosity are compatible with an account that emphasizes a broader social dimension in his thought.

Second, I present a framework that outlines a positive theory of community, a ‘Dialectic of Community,’ which explains the importance of the Kierkegaardian single individual in the formation and development of community. This framework provides an interpretation of the social period of Kierkegaard’s authorship and its importance for the entirely of the authorship. Even though the interpretation is helpful for understanding Kierkegaard and his relationship to 19th and 20th century European moral, social, and political thought, Kierkegaard never explicitly describes how his conception of the self is consistent with his social thought. I address this problem by developing a narrative model of selfhood that illustrates the importance of subjectivity and the single individual for an adequate account of intersubjective selfhood. More specifically, I argue that narratives are important intersubjectively for becoming a person and a moral agent, but the concept of self is not exhausted in narrative. That is, having a self-narrative presupposes that the person is a subject who has a set of principles that organize one’s experiences and activities. This framework not only shows how Kierkegaard’s concept of subjectivity can be understood in a social context, but it also addresses a significant problem in narrative identity theory.

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Philosophy Commons

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