Previous edition: Event and Becoming (2021)

Acts of philosophy | Programme | Abstracts | Speakers | CfA

Kierkegaard: Acts of philosophy - the Second Ereignis Conference

How can we enlist the literary image to move readers to act in the world, and how may a philosophical life serve as a theatre in which ideas are enacted? These are key questions for our second Ereignis conference, to be held on-site in Gdynia, Poland, on Saturday, June 11, and on-line on June 12, 2022.

Hosted by Ereignis Center for Philosophy and the Arts, and headlined by internationally acclaimed speakers on literary and political philosophy, this conference seeks to show a wide array of philosophical, literary, and social junctures where Kierkegaard’s philosophy meet with contemporary concerns.

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Christine Hsiu-Chin Chou, Fu Jen Catholic University, Taiwan: “Interfusion between Narrative and Existence: A Hermeneutic of ‘Guilty or Not Guilty’ in Stages on Life’s Way” — According to Kierkegaard, Stages on Life’s Way is “the riches of all” he has written and yet “difficult to understand.” Arguably, the twofold quality of the book, tremendously rich and difficult, significantly lies in the meaningful interweaving of content and form. As “a heightened example” of Kierkegaard’s “indirect communication,” this tri-parted book features Kierkegaard’s art and intent of aesthetic writing in that a dialectical theory of the three spheres of existence is intimated through narrativizing three “stages of life’s way.” Basically in the form of narrative, various life-worlds are created in Stages on Life’s Way for the characters and also readers to deepen their subjective “studies” of the dialectical realms of existence. In terms of this, the narrative form of Kierkegaard’s indirect/maieutic/aesthetic writing, in effect, serves as the very medium of engaging readers and characters alike in the “self-activity,” which is encapsulated by one noted manifesto in Kierkegaard’s existential philosophy — “To exist is art.” Based on the perception of Kierkegaard’s aesthetic text as mediating the union of art and existence, this study attempts to fulfill the task of the Kierkegaardian reader, focused on approaching the most complicated section of Stages on Life’s Way, the third narrative titled “Guilty?’/‘Not Guilty?”, which is a text about a young man who suffers all the tension while striving to live the dialectic “stage” of three existence-spheres. The foremost objective of reading this “story of suffering” is to testify how the textuality of the narrative, with its formal structure of a bipartite diary to convey such a religious individual’s day and night consciousness of the contradictory possibilities of being guilty and not guilty, may facilitate a hermeneutic inter-fusion of the narrative art and the “self-activity” not only of the persona within the text but also of the reader.

Dante Clementi, University of St Andrews, UK: “Disorienting Upbuilding: Ricoeur and Kierkegaard on Spiritual Transfiguration through Reading” — Kierkegaard’s advocation of religious silence in his 1849 discourses, The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air, is, on one reading, meant to performatively demonstrate the representational limits of language by its ironic expression through language (Shakespeare 2001). This reading, however, ignores the discourses’ literary artifice — in this case, parable, and literary narrative - which indicates that how these discourses are to be experienced by the reader is different than merely countenancing a performatively illustrated philosophical thesis. This paper addresses the questions of why Kierkegaard employs parable as part of his religious literature and how it is meant to be experienced by the discourses’ reader. Drawing on his account of reading scripture in For Self-Examination, this paper suggests that Kierkegaard tries, through a highly stylized literary medium, to engender silence within the reader by shifting the reader’s way of attending to the discourses themselves, a shift from objectively dissecting the text to quietly contemplating the text as if it were about oneself. How this shift in attending to the discourses occurs can be clarified through Paul Ricoeur’s conception of parables — developed in his “Biblical Hermeneutics” (1974), and across various smaller works - as disorienting their reader to re-orient them, a disorientation that affects a new vision of the world in the parables’ reader. What emerges from the Ricoeur-Kierkegaard dialogue is a more explicitly theorized account of how language’s figurative possibilities still the reader’s discursive interpretation such that they become immersed in the text. As this paper will suggest, this immersion occurs by the text working in the reader to engender a contemplative, quiet reception of its, the text’s, voice, a voice that draws the reader into the text to imaginatively find themselves within the text.

Santiago de Arteaga, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile / Universiteit Leiden: “To die being oneself: The literary image of the ‘teacher of earnestness’ and it’s place in self-becoming” — I will argue that the metaphor of death as ‘the teacher of earnestness’ present in Kierkegaard’s At a graveside is “an example of thinking oriented to becoming subjective”, as Climacus states in the Postscript, a literary act of philosophy oriented to bring forth the movement to realize the essential task of life. The thought of death can produce a mere mood or one can appropriate death as one’s own lot by turning to the teacher to bestow a profound significance on life, for “to die well is … the highest wisdom of life”. This is the teacher’s lesson that “accelerates life”. Moreover, Climacus asks: “To become what one in any case is... who would want to waste time on that?” The task of becoming oneself is the ultimate task. And, as Anti-Climacus states in the Sickness, to become a self is to produce a synthesis that relates itself to itself and in doing so relates to God as its foundation. The individual becomes earnest by the appropriation of death as his own lot, an existential knowledge that shapes experience in responsible action because there is “no time to waste”. Deathly decision, which comes from thinking death “into every moment of my life” brings full significance to the individual’s life by the appropriation that death is his own lot. This earnestness means that the relation that is the self relates itself to itself because it has no time to waste to become itself and has obtained such caring consciousness. Death, the “teacher of earnestness”, teaches the wisdom of appropriation that accelerates life with the decisiveness of action to become oneself, which is the highest wisdom of all, the “essential knowing … that pertains to existence … my responsibility for my own becoming.” And to die well is to die being oneself.

Dr. Adam Staley Groves, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore: “Lord of the Door: Kierkegaard and the poetry of thought” — Before anything else Søren Kierkegaard is considered a philosopher however, in the opening chapter of Philosophies of Existence (1959) Jean André Wahl writes “He is not a philosopher, he would say \ … and had no philosophy to call ‘philosophy of existence’ or to oppose other philosophies.” The significance of this depiction hinges on Wahl’s pioneering work Études kierkegaardiennes (1938) which introduced Kierkegaard’s thought into France. Wahl’s depiction raises essential questions. If Kierkegaard is not a philosopher how is this to be determined? How should we regard him? Furthermore, what might we learn about contemporary life (if not philosophy itself) if we understand Kierkegaard’s persona and insight independent of its philosophical frame? This essay begins with a distinction between poetry, philosophy, and science placing emphasis on technic which supposedly threatens to unify the immediate, mediate, and conceptual. The advance of technic and our lack of redress threatens to embolden the authoritarian banality of current regimes. How to respond? The ethics to come regarding our technological destiny is viewed particular to strong poets who purportedly guard the passage between the immediate and conceptual. Their concepts suggest an insight into our seemingly inevitable technological despair. This is particular to Kierkegaard whose radical individualism remains unparalleled in terms of it praxis. To develop our understanding Kierkegaard is considered akin to Wallace Stevens’s concept of “a poetry of thought” which designates a theory of poetry according to poets distinct from philosophy. For both Kierkegaard and Stevens authored singular prose thus we should not ignore the nature of his theory which may belong to poetry as potentially validated by Jean Wahl, a philosopher whom Stevens befriended.

Kresten Lundsgaard-Leth, International People’s College, Denmark: “For the Love of God? On Hägglund’s misunderstanding of Fear and TremblingAbstract.

Christopher Norris, University of Cardiff, Wales: “Neither/Nor: Kierkegaard Between Philosophy and Literature” Abstract.

Gorica Orsholits, European Graduate School: “Elucidating humour in Kierkegaard’s philosophy” — In antiquity, the word humour referred to the balance between the physiological, psychological and pathological characteristics of a person. It was only in recent times that humour became associated with the comic effects of artistic creations. Søren Kierkegaard recognised humour as one of the highest stages of life, among the aesthetic, the ethical and the religious. In Kierkegaard’s philosophy, humour aids in maintaining a true personality. The being of being requires constant striving to remain in communion, to attain synthesis, and balance a multitude of different humours, opposing aspirations that exist within the personal self. Kierkegaard reads the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a mirror of his own experience, of his own dilemmas in life. In Shakespeare’s tragicomedy of Hamlet, the essence of humour is poetical and psychological, and represents the distinction between that which is expected and that which occurs in reality. This understanding of humour overlaps the role Kierkegaard ascribes to humour in his existential philosophy. Hegel’s objective humour, and Freud’s relief theory linking humour to the unconscious can serve to better explain Kierkegaard’s understanding of humour and help answer the question: Has this initial ontological meaning of the word humour managed to transport itself from the sphere of life in the 19th century into our contemporary world view, state of mind, life philosophy?

Prof. Gisle Selnes, University of Bergen, Norway: “Job’s Modernity; or Ereignis & Repetition: a Lacanian re-view, with discontinual reference to the Assange case” Abstract.

Prof. Jørgen Veisland, University of Gdańsk, Poland: “What’s in a name. A Kierkegaardian approach to Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus and Paul Auster’s City of GlassAbstract.

Huang Yufeng, University of Macau: “The Divinatory and the contemporaneity: different thoughts of Schleiermacher and Kierkegaard on hermeneutics” — In this paper, I would like to investigate into the similarities and differences of these two thinkers on hermeneutics especially regarding to two important concepts respectively: one is Schleiermacher’s divinatory interpretation; another is Kierkegaard’s contemporaneity. Not only do these two concepts criticize traditional hermeneutic methods (especially philological and exegetic methods), but they are also heading toward a more existential understanding of hermeneutics. In fact, the divinatory can be regarded as a kind of contemporaneity which on the one hand identifies the temporal (historical) distance that has been proposed by the grammatical interpretation, while it, on the other hand, negates the distance in a mysterious and secret way. However, Kierkegaard might regard this approach as a leap in the first immediacy that merely focuses on the “whatness” instead of the “howness”. Instead, Kierkegaard emphasizes on the second immediacy in which the relationship depends not on the content but on how one relates himself or herself with something (this something could be God, biblical texts or deeds of prophets). At last, there might be a convergence on breaking down the hermeneutics circle by Schleiermacher’s divinatory interpretation and Kierkegaard’s contemporaneity respectively. Through the former, the hermeneutics circle might be collapsed in a perfect understanding. Through the latter, the hermeneutic circle might end up with an eluding understanding which necessarily demands and inevitably enables an endless play between the writing and the author/reader. This breaking down is not to break the hermeneutic circle, but is parallel to the opening up of it.

Giulia Zerbinati, University of Pisa/Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy: “Aesthetic images as the reconnection of the self with the world: an Adornian approach to Kierkegaard” — Adorno’s book Kierkegaard: Construction of the Aesthetic is a critical and unique analysis of Kierkegaardian philosophy. Its leading methodological principle is to plumb the depths of Kierkegaard’s philosophy to draw out those aspects that remained hidden to their same author, as though his writings enclosed a secret core, that only a posthumous examination can disclose, whether it is able to read them literally. An interpretation of this sort should start from the aesthetic, insofar as such secret core is concealed in the images that Kierkegaard constructed through his work, seen by Adorno as a codebook in which they represent the ciphers he aims to decipher. Kierkegaardian aesthetic images can also be seen as illustrations of philosophical categories, representing a key to their understanding. Moreover, if with Kierkegaard the aesthetic takes on his very meaning as modus vivendi, Adorno reverses the Kierkegaardian existential hierarchy attributing to the aesthetic realm the highest rank, as it comes closer to reality, both as the real condition of the subject and as the dimension of objectivity of the external world. Starting from the subject-object dialectic, Adorno finds in the recurring image of the intérieur the perfect representation of the interior space of the Kierkegaardian self (the subject) and its estrangement from sthe world (the object), that it wards off in the illusion of preserving itself in interiority. Just when Kierkegaard’s subject seems fatally trapped in «objectless inwardness», a prison where it can experience nothing but solitude and melancholy, Adorno glimpses a possibility of his reconnection with «the other». My aim is to show, through the Adornian interpretation, how this possibility lies again in the aesthetic, namely in the fragmentary rarefied images that Kierkegaard’s writings present as allegories, and why the aesthetic realm is where a clue of reconciliation with reality can be found.

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Acts of philosophy | Programme | Abstracts | Speakers | CfA