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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Starting from Soren Kierkegaard's insight that fully accepting the human condition requires one to live with the persistent temptation to escape from it, Ronald Hall finds similar concerns reflected in the work of two modern-day philosophers, Stanley Cavell and Martha Nussbaum, who equally find in a philosophy of love and marriage the key to understanding how humans may achieve happiness in the acceptance of their humanity.

All three thinkers follow a "logic of paradox" in showing how success in the human quest to be human depends crucially on the struggle humans experience with the ever-present opportunities to pursue alternative paths. What Kierkegaard called "living existentially" can be achieved only after confronting and refusing the possibilities of living in "aesthetic, " "ethical, " or even "religious" denial of one's true humanity.

By creating this dialogue between the nineteenth-century Danish thinker and two eminent twentieth-century philosophers, Hall reveals the continuing relevance of Kierkegaard's thought to our own age and its cogency as an interpretation of the human predicament.

Excerpt

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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