Monday, 1 January 2018

Kierkegaard. Fear and Trembling. 1. Anthony Stadlen conducts Inner Circle Seminar 244 (14 October 2018)

Søren Kierkegaard
Fear and Trembling
Dialectical Lyric by Johannes de silentio (1843)
1. Preliminary overview and Preface

Anthony Stadlen

Inner Circle Seminar No. 244
14 October 2018
Søren Kierkegaard   
Abraham and Isaac

Søren Kierkegaard (5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855) was the thinker who introduced the word existential’ to convey the project of thinking with the whole of one’s being, as an existing thinker, rather than constructing a theory or system’ which he said was like a house in which one does not live.

Kierkegaard’s pseudonymously published short book Fear and Trembling (1843) is a searching analysis of the Akedah, the Biblical account of Abraham’s binding of Isaac (Genesis, 22:1-19), fundamental for all three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Fear and Trembling is a fundamental document for existential thinking, to which Heidegger, Jaspers, and Sartre acknowledged their indebtedness. The meaning of the Akedah has been debated and disputed for thousands of years by Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and (more recently) atheist thinkers. The meaning of Kierkegaards (pseudonyms) interplay of interpretations in Fear and Trembling has also been the contentious subject of a continuing comprehensive conversation by generations of theological, philosophical, and psychological scholars for one hundred and seventy-five years.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, himself generally regarded as one of the most profound thinkers of the 20th century, held that Kierkegaard was by far the most profound thinker of the 19th century. However, Ernesto Spinelli, widely regarded as a leading existential therapist, has recently denounced Abraham’s self-evident lunacy and Kierkegaard’s dangerous folly. This is in line with traditional clinical-psychiatric thinking, for example the psychiatrist Abraham Myerson’s 1945 diagnosis that Kierkegaard was a psychiatric case’, whose writing was a schizoid and certainly utterly incomprehensible presentation by a mind which is quite deviate’.

Are these important demystifying insights into a pretentious and over-rated writer? Or is the existential tradition here degenerating into abject capitulation to uncomprehending psychiatric reductionism?

In eight seminars, you are invited to explore in depth the rich variety of interpretations of both the Akedah and Fear and Trembling, and perhaps arrive at your own. 

Venue: Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ
Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £132, others £165, some bursaries; coffee, tea, Durrants rock, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
                  Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857     E-mail:
For further information on seminars, visit:

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools, and universities.

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