Jeffrey A. Hanson at KU Leuven: A Tentative Kierkegaardian Phenomenology Of Selfhood

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Talk: Jeffrey A. Hanson (Harvard University) at KU Leuven, Belgium, on 17 September 2019 for the Husserl-Archives and Homo-Mimeticus project.

Jeffrey A. Hanson: “A Tentative Kierkegaardian Phenomenology Of Selfhood: Subjectivity, Repetition, and Meaning”

17 September 2019, 4:30 – 6:00

Free of charge; no registration required

Room 01.16 Raadzaal
Kardinaal Mercierplein 2
Institute of Philosophy,
KU Leuven, Belgium
Free of charge; no registration required

Contact: Wojciech Kaftanski ([email protected])

This paper argues that liturgical language used by Vigilius Haufniensis in The Concept of Anxiety is of critical significance to his account of earnestness, which in turn is at the heart of his theory of selfhood. In the middle of his most sustained discussion of earnestness, Haufniensis writes, “To make everything as concrete as possible, I shall use an example. Every Sunday, a clergyman must recite the prescribed common prayer, and every Sunday he baptizes several children. Now let him be enthusiastic etc. The fire burns out, he will stir and move people etc., but at one time more and at another time less. Earnestness alone is capable of returning regularly every Sunday with the same originality to the same thing.” Repetition as the pervading of the temporal by the eternal is neither habit, which stultifies the same tasks by rote, nor enthusiasm, which waxes and wanes. Repetition allows the individual to experience each temporal moment as charged with eternal significance, which is the traditional function of liturgical practice. Incorporating this thought about a liturgical aspect of selfhood complements a narrative conception of the self by capturing temporality’s synchronic orientation by contrast to the diachrony of narrative. I argue that both dimensions are present in the self as Kierkegaard conceives of it. Even in the ordinary sense of the term “liturgy,” a narrative is required to endow liturgical acts and practices with meaning, while repetition of liturgical acts and practices sustains and develops narratives. The narrative self and the liturgical self are not two selves but mutually co-conditioning structures of selfhood that account for a broad range of phenomenological possibilities inherent in being a self.

Jeffrey A. Hanson is Senior Philosopher for the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science. He is the author of Kierkegaard and the Life of Faith: The Aesthetic, the Ethical, and the Religious in “Fear and Trembling” and the forthcoming Philosophies of Labor in the Platonic Tradition: A History of Work and Human Flourishing. He is the editor of Kierkegaard as Phenomenologist: An Experiment and with Sharon Krishek the forthcoming Cambridge Critical Guide to “The Sickness unto Death“.

The talk is supported by the Husserl-Archives: Centre for Phenomenology and Continental Philosophy, and the ERC-Funded Homo-Mimeticus project, Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven.

KU Leuven

Homo Mimeticus