PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 23-26, 2019

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Kierkegaard, Religion, and Culture Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

This Unit seeks to explore the significance of the religious thought and ethics of Kierkegaard for contemporary culture in its various aspects — social, political, ecclesiastical, theological, philosophical, and aesthetic.

Call for Papers: 

● Kierkegaard on Alterity: Fear, Difference, and Our Shared Humanity -
The fear of otherness or difference is at the heart of the polarization plaguing contemporary society in the United States and elsewhere. Kierkegaard’s interpretation of the love command—love of God and love of neighbor—in the Judeo-Christian scriptures seems to shed light on this problem by illuminating both the distinctiveness and kinship of all human beings. For example, in Works of Love, he indicates that precisely because God serves as the “middle term” between individuals, in loving God we are called to recognize others as our “neighbors,” as ones close to us. Loving our neighbors in God not only “deeply and forever memorably imprint[s] the kinship of all human beings” on us, but in bringing others close to us, it also allows us to overcome the social stratifications and divisions through which “people are inhumanly separated one from another.” This shared humanity in God, insists Kierkegaard, does not eradicate or preclude our distinctiveness or difference. For, in being “neighbors” to each other, we are not called to reduce others to our own individual terms. Rather, the other person is a “You,” not another “I.” Kierkegaard underscores this point in “The Present Age,” where he maintains that religion retains and values each person’s individuality or uniqueness along with their kinship to others.

Postmodern thinkers, however, have longed argued that the love command is inadequate for dealing with alterity. For many of them, the command to love the other as yourself vitiates the very otherness of the other. With such a critique of the love command and Christianity, one might view Kierkegaard’s own avowed critiques of modern politics as only furthering the wedge between the religious and the political. After all, Kierkegaard himself wrote in a journal entry that “political service and religious service relate to each other altogether inversely, inasmuch as politically everything turns on getting numbers of people on one’s side, but religiously on having God on one’s side.” To what extent, then, can Kierkegaard help us to comprehend and to critique the fear of difference that besets our modern political responses to what ought to be, and to what he envisioned as, our shared humanity? To what extent does he contribute to our understanding of the problem of alterity?

This session invites proposals that address the disparate aspects of Kierkegaard’s authorship, the relationship that he establishes between the religious and the political, in order to probe the question of alterity in Kierkegaard’s texts—the extent to which his texts are other than themselves and the depths to which Kierkegaard allows his readers to address the fear—the denigration—of difference.

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members
ChairSteering Committee