chapter  26
12 Pages

Kierkegaard's Post-Kantian Approach to Anthropology and Selfhood

WithRoe Fremstedal

This chapter relates Kierkegaard’s views on anthropology and selfhood to Kantian and post-Kantian philosophical anthropology. It focuses on Kierkegaard’s contribution to anthropology, and discusses the relation between philosophical and theological anthropology in Kierkegaard. The chapter gives a synopsis of these issues by focusing on The Sickness unto Death, although important elements of this work are anticipated by Either/Or, The Concept of Anxiety and Concluding Unscientific Postscript. After an historical introduction and brief remarks on Kierkegaard’s method, the chapter moves to human nature, selfhood, and despair in The Sickness unto Death. We will see that human nature is interpreted as a synthesis of opposites, whereas selfhood requires self-consciousness and higher-order volition. Nevertheless, The Sickness unto Death approaches selfhood and anthropology negatively by focusing on despair, a deficient form of agency that involves double-mindedness. Kierkegaard argues that despair can only be overcome by wholeheartedness and religious faith. Whereas Part I of The Sickness unto Death provides a philosophical anthropology that distinguishes between inauthentic (non-conscious) and authentic (conscious) despair, Part II develops a theological anthropology that focuses on faith and despair before God. Part I analyses and criticizes various forms of despair on their own terms, whereas Part II identifies despair with sin on the presupposition of divine revelation. Overall, The Sickness unto Death provides a systematic analysis of despair that has been influential in continental philosophy and theology. It is a fascinating contribution to anthropology and theories of selfhood because of its typology and negativistic phenomenology.