Friday, January 16, 2015

Kierkegaard: An Introduction

E. Stephen Evans, Kierkegaard: An Introduction. Cambridge UP, 2010. 206 pages. ISBN 978-0-521-70041-2

C. Stephen Evans is University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Baylor University. He has more than thirty years of experience both teaching and writing about Kierkegaard. It is a very difficult task to write a concise introduction to a complicated thinker like Kierkegaard. Evans does a good job of giving an overview of Kierkegaard's thought from a philosophical perspective. It is helpful that Evans is conversant with both the primary and secondary sources. He does a good job in letting the reader knowing how Kierkegaard has been interpreted by different scholars.

Evans goal is really not to summarize Kierkegaard, but to "remove some of the barriers to a genuine reading of Kierkegaard" (ix). The author organizes Kierkegaard: an Introduction around Kierkegaard's spheres of existence: aesthetic, ethical, and religious. These spheres can also be considered the path to "authentic selfhood." The aesthetic stage emphasizes immediacy, living on the surface. The ethical stage emphasizes duty, taking responsibility for one's life. The religious stage is seeing oneself before God. Merold Westphal has suggested that there exists a religious a, b, and c stage. The c stage is intersubjectivity.

The first two chapters give an overview of Kierkegaard's life and works, including his methods of indirect communication and his pseudonymous writings. He discusses the different interpretations of his use of this method. The next chapter discusses Kierkegaard's view of the self and Kierkegaard controversial idea of "truth is subjectivity." Throughout the book Evans tries to correct what he sees as misinterpretations of Kierkegaard. For example, he attempts to refute the ideas that Kierkegaard was an irrationalist and a radical individualist.

The last two chapters analyzes Kierkegaard's view of Christian thought and its application to the contemporary world. In the next to last chapter he shows how the Other is important to Kierkegaard's thought. He thinks this includes God, but it also include human persons. This is especially shown in Kierkegaard's Works of Love which emphasizes love of the neighbor. Evans includes an annotated bibliography at the end of the book for those who want to read more about Kierkegaard.

Evans successfully brings Kierkegaard in conversation with important themes in modern philosophy: virtue epistemology, antifoundationalism, postmodernism, existentialism, and others. He shows how Kierkegaard can add to these conversations. Evans does a good job in making Kierkegaard understandable to the general reader. It is hoped that readers of this book will go on to read Kierkegaard and other works about him. Kierkegaard can be an important source for discussing ideas that are important to living. It seems that Kierkegaard's ideas are not outdated at all. I find him to be an excellent conversation partner.

No comments:

Post a Comment