We shall start by asking why Kierkegaard was so highly regarded by leading twentieth- and twenty-first century philosophers and psychotherapists. Why did Ludwig Wittgenstein call this Danish writer ‘a saint’ and ‘by far the greatest thinker of the ninteenth century’? Why did Martin Buber, Ludwig Binswanger, Karl Jaspers, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Martin Heidegger, Carl Rogers, Jean-Paul Sartre, Rollo May, Thomas Szasz, and R. D. Laing revere him?
Then we shall focus on two of Kierkegaard’s central concepts, ‘dread’ (‘angest’) and ‘despair’ (‘fortvivlelse’), much cited by psychotherapists. What did he mean by them? Did he even mean them? In what sense are they his concepts? They occur in The Concept of Dread (1844) and The Sickness unto Death (1849), two of Kierkegaard’s pseudonymously written books, designed to lead readers ‘indirectly’ to truth, by stating and developing positions not necessarily his own, by contrast with his ‘upbuilding discourses’, such as Works of Love, which he intended as ‘direct’ communication and published in his own name. The pseudonymous ‘authors’ derive both concepts, ‘dread’ and ‘despair’, from ‘original sin’ (also called ‘hereditary sin’), a dogma regarded by Judaism as an heretical Christian misinterpretation by Paul and Augustine of the Bible story, and by humanism as a devaluing of human curiosity and desire. Why, then, do religious-Jewish and atheist-humanist, as well as Christian, existential philosophers and psychotherapists nevertheless value these books and these concepts so highly? What relevance do the concepts of ‘dread’ and ‘despair’, as explored by Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms, have for the practice of psychotherapy? Your contribution to the discussion of these questions will be welcome.
Professor Daphne Hampson is a distinguished theologian, and author of Kierkegaard: Exposition & Critique (2013), which will be published on 25 April (but can be bought now from Oxford University Press in time for the seminar). Professor Hampson will give an introduction to the historical, philosophical and theological background of each of the books The Concept of Dread and The Sickness unto Death.
Cost: Psychotherapy trainees and students £116, others £145, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water and liquorice allsorts included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
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