Kierkegaard's God and the Good Life

Kierkegaard's God and the Good Life

Kierkegaard's God and the Good Life

Kierkegaard's God and the Good Life

Synopsis

Kierkegaard's God and the Good Life focuses on faith and love, two central topics in Kierkegaard's writings, to grapple with complex questions at the intersection of religion and ethics. Here, leading scholars reflect on Kierkegaard's understanding of God, the religious life, and what it means to exist ethically. The contributors then shift to psychology, hope, knowledge, and the emotions as they offer critical and constructive readings for contemporary philosophical debates in the philosophy of religion, moral philosophy, and epistemology. Together, they show how Kierkegaard continues to be an important resource for understandings of religious existence, public discourse, social life, and how to live virtuously.

Excerpt

Sharon Krishek

In this chapter I explore the crucial significance of love for human flourishing. I claim that according to Kierkegaard, love is a divinely inspired potential that humans must actualize for the purpose of living a good life. This has a twofold reason: such an actualization is a fulfillment of one’s nature, and it brings the human lover closer to God. I develop this thesis on the basis of a metaphorical picture that appears at the beginning of Kierkegaard’s Works of Love and illustrate its existential implications by interpreting Tolstoy’s novella “The Death of Ivan IlyichU Life

Often elusive and mysterious but always prevailing, love is undoubtedly central to human life. It pervades our existence, infusing it with meaningfulness and joy. Kierkegaard would doubtless have agreed with this observation, for as he writes at the conclusion of his Works of Love (1847), “to love people is the only thing worth living for” and “without this love you are not really living” (WL, 375). What does it mean to live one’s life while not really living it? Tolstoy’s well-known novella “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” arguably presents an answer. the novella depicts the dark suffering of the dying Ivan Ilyich as he struggles with the threatening understanding “that he had not lived his life as he should have done.”

In this chapter I would like to present a reading of the novella in the light of a metaphorical passage that opens Kierkegaard’s Works of Love. I believe that the two texts complement and enhance each other. the philosophical idea presented in Kierkegaard’s text provides a productive framework for understanding the novella, and the human experience brought vividly to life in Tolstoy’s text validates the Kierkegaardian idea. Thus, reading these two texts together, I hope to shed light both on the novella (and in particular its enigmatic ending) and on Kierkegaard’s reflection regarding the wrongness of a life devoid of love. I begin by discussing what I take to be a key idea at the basis of Kierkegaard’s understanding of love. According to my interpretation, the metaphorical picture at the opening of Works of Love (which depicts love as a quiet lake that originates in a hidden spring) presents love as a divinely inspired potential that we humans . . .

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