chapter  4
12 Pages

Methodology and the Kierkegaardian Mind

WithJamie Turnbull

This chapter begins by outlining several approaches to Kierkegaard’s methodology of indirect communication: literary, psychological, biographical, theological and philosophical. I propose an interpretation of indirect communication as grounded in Kierkegaard’s conception of Christ as absolute paradox. Christ is both man and God. As a man Christ can communicate with other men through human language, yet as a God he lies beyond the limits of human language and ratiocination. If Christ qua God is to communicate with men, this can only be done indirectly through Christ qua man, and the capacities that he holds in kind with other men. To understand this conception of indirect communication, the chapter argues that Kierkegaard needs to be approached within the context of Danish Golden Age culture, and specifically the reception of Hegel’s logic of mediation. Understanding indirect communication in terms of the reception of Hegel’s thought allows us to appreciate the centrality of indirect communication both to Kierkegaard’s Christology and to his response to the Hegelian theology he stands against. Yet the aim of this chapter is not simply to advance an interpretation of Kierkegaard’s concept of indirect communication in its immediate historical context, but to examine the relationship between how we understand the concept of indirect communication and our own methodological presuppositions in approaching Kierkegaard. If the interpretation of indirect communication advanced in this chapter is correct, then it follows that certain approaches to indirect communication (such as literary, psychological, or biographical) cannot do justice to all that is at issue. Moreover, given that indirect communication depends upon the notion of a transcendent and supernatural God, philosophical and naturalistic interpretations exclude the very concepts necessary to making sense of indirect communication in virtue of their methodological presuppositions alone.