The Human Embrace: The Love of Philosophy and the Philosophy of Love: Kierkegaard, Cavell, Nussbaum

By Ronald L. Hall | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION
THE LOGIC OF PARADOX

In this book, I undertake to bring to light some common themes running through three important philosophers, each of whom, on the surface at least, has a different philosophical interest and agenda. I refer to the nineteenthcentury, Danish, Christian, existentialist philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, and two contemporary American philosophers, Stanley Cavell, whose interest is in ordinary language philosophy and recently in philosophy and film, and Martha Nussbaum, whose interest is in ancient philosophy and the intersection of philosophy and literature. One of these common themes is found in the fact that all three are interested in, and develop a philosophy of, love. Another related theme is found in the fact that they all articulate in their own distinctive way, deeply held convictions about what it means to be human, about the value of being human, about our human challenge to embrace our own humanness.

Also, there is something beyond these common thematic convictions that brings these apparently divergent thinkers together. As I would put it, all three of these figures seem to be guided by a similar logic. I began to see this when I noticed that all three claim, in one way or another, that for human beings, the (or at least, a) defining element of being human is our freedom not to be. All three of these lovers of philosophy and philosophers of love seem to agree that a unique feature of human being is that we humans must decide to be human, to embrace our humanness, a decision that presupposes alternative possibilities, possibilities that range all the way from fantasies of being gods, to flirtations with the inhuman, the monstrous. But whether these alternatives to being human take the form of rising above the human or sinking below it,

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