Brief Review: Ethics, Love, and Faith in Kierkegaard [Vol. 2, #22]

May 29, 2009

 

A Brief Review of
Ethics, Love, and Faith in Kierkegaard,
Edward F. Mooney, ed.

Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion, Merold Westphal, ed.
Paperback: Indiana Univ. Press, 2008.
Buy now:   [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Mark Eckel.

Misunderstandings about the misunderstood abound.  Christians and atheists, foundationalists and post-moderns, psychologists and philosophers have in some way or another claimed or repudiated Kierkegaard.  Ethics, Love, and Faith in Kierkegaard is written, in part, to eliminate some of the misconceptions held by any or all groups.  The text assumes a grounded understanding of Kierkegaard including interpretive analyses.  Reading necessitates a deep-rooted philosophical and psychological interplay that few people outside of the field will comprehend or appreciate.  Yet, Robert C. Roberts suggests that today’s professors, bent toward theory, are distinctive from even Kierkegaard himself, who was interested in exploring concepts and convening wisdom (73).

Understanding the nuances of thought Kierkegaard defined is critical to appreciate terms such as “authority,” “virtue,” or “character” (Kirmmse, 24-38).  Ferreira’s examination (93-110) of “love” is loaded with finely split hairs.  Conway’s (175-95) and Davenport’s (196-233) essays interpret the responses of the interpreters to the Danish philosopher.  While beneficial to the expert, the uninitiated are left unimpressed.

For those not so ensconced in the minutia of Kierkegaardian thought, there are a few articles in the volume that catch one’s eye.  Hubert Dreyfuss (11-28) highlights the idea that ethics allow for coherence.  His comment that “philosophical categories have no way to distinguish unconditional commitment from selfishness” (20) ought to be pondered by all.  Marion (121-28) rips out by the roots the twisted, individualism of forgiveness present in today’s view of depression.  Roberts’ (72-92) explanation of Christian love being an extraordinary duty is impressive.  But it was Furtak’s (59-71) repudiation of naturalistic arguments about awareness and aesthetics that makes a lasting impression.  Linking literature with philosophy is key to Furtak’s belief that novels and verse should be allowed to contribute to philosophical knowledge (69).

Quoting R. G. Collingwood, Furtak concludes, “The philosopher must go to school with the poets in order to learn the use of language, and must use it in their way: as a means of exploring one’s own mind, and bringing to light what is obscure and doubtful in it” (71). As Mooney states in his introduction, Kierkegaard is interested in a way of life (5).  Surely fiction instructs us along the path of Ethics, Love, and Faith.  Story and poetry might go a long way toward helping ethicists, philosophers, and psychologists communicate the wisdom Kierkegaard desired, making him better understood.

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Mark Eckel is director of the Mahseh Center, Lake Bruce, IN
( www.mahseh.org ).