Kierkegaard and Death

Kierkegaard and Death

Kierkegaard and Death

Kierkegaard and Death


Few philosophers have devoted such sustained, almost obsessive attention to the topic of death as Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard and Death brings together new work on Kierkegaard's multifaceted discussions of death and provides a thorough guide to the development, in various texts and contexts, of Kierkegaard's ideas concerning death. Essays by an international group of scholars take up essential topics such as dying to the world, living death, immortality, suicide, mortality and subjectivity, death and the meaning of life, remembrance of the dead, and the question of the afterlife. While bringing Kierkegaard's philosophy of death into focus, this volume connects Kierkegaard with important debates in contemporary philosophy.


Patrick Stokes and Adam Buben

On Wednesday, July 29, 1835, two days before the first anniversary of his mother’s death, a twenty-two-year-old theology student writes of his experience of standing atop Gilbjerg Hoved, a small cliff just outside the North Zealand coastal town of Gilleleje:

This has always been one of my favorite spots. Often, as I stood here on a
quiet evening, the sea intoning its song with deep but calm solemnity, my
eye catching not a single sail on the vast surface, and only the sea framed
the sky and the sky the sea, while on the other hand the busy hum of life
grew silent and the birds sang their vespers, then the few dear departed
ones rose from the grave before me, or rather, it seemed as though they
were not dead. I felt so much at ease in their midst, I rested in their
embrace, and I felt as though I were outside my body and floated about
with them in a higher ether—until the seagull’s harsh screech reminded
me that I stood alone and it all vanished before my eyes, and with a heavy
heart I turned back to mingle with the world’s throng—yet without forget
ting such blessed moments (KJN 1, 9/SKS 17, 13–14).

Three days later, Kierkegaard would write the famous entry so often cited as presaging and framing his entire authorial project: “What I really need is to be clear about what I am to do … the thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die” (KJN 1, 19/SKS 17, 24). But that stunningly prescient entry tends to overshadow another key strand of Kierkegaard’s authorship that also begins in Gilleleje that week: his remarkable, lifelong preoccupation with death, dying, and the dead. Just as the “few dear departed ones” hover over that young student as he stands alone on a hill, trying to make sense of the . . .

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