Sunday 1 January 2023

Søren Kierkegaard. From 16 October 1843 to the authorship as a whole. Marilyn Piety & Daniel Conway conduct Inner Circle Seminars 279 & 281 (12 February & 26 March 2023)


Søren Kierkegaard

(1813 – 1855) 

From the works published on 16 October 1843

to the authorship as a whole

Faith, repetition, anxiety, existence, despair, love

Fear and Trembling
Upbuilding Discourses
Philosophical Crumbs
The Concept of Anxiety
Concluding Unscientific Postscript
Works of Love
The Sickness Unto Death
and other works

Marilyn Piety and Daniel Conway
conduct by Zoom
Inner Circle Seminars Nos. 279 and 281
introduced by Anthony Stadlen
Sundays 12 February and 26 March 2023 

Søren Kierkegaard
and the three books he published on 16 October 1843

Repetition by Constantin Constantius

Fear and Trembling by Johannes de silentio

 Three Upbuilding Discourses by Søren Kierkegaard

Our exceptional constellation of speakers and seminars on the writings of the foundational existential thinker Søren Kierkegaard is helping existential therapists to reach a deeper understanding of his thinking and, therefore, of the foundations of their discipline. This does not mean, of course, that they should expect to agree with everything he or his pseudonyms said, which would in any case be logically impossible, by the very nature of the sometimes contradictory interplay of his and his pseudonyms' perspectives. 
Some of the world’s greatest Kierkegaard authorities have guided us in nine seminars through the three extraordinary books, including Fear and Trembling, he (and two of his pseudonyms) published on 16 October 1843. We celebrated the 175th anniversary of this incandescence by starting on 14 October 2018.
In 2023, we resume this exploration, with another expertly guided seminar on Fear and Trembling. But we also move on to an examination of all Kierkegaard’s main works over the coming years, with particular focus on their relevance to psychotherapy, starting with Philosophical Crumbs.

1. Philosophical Crumbs
or A Crumb of Philosophy
by Johannes Climacus
published by Søren Kierkegaard
13 June 1844

Marilyn Piety
Inner Circle Seminar No. 279
Sunday 12 February 2023
2 p.m. to 5 p.m.   6 p.m. to 9 p.m.   London time (GMT)

Professor Marilyn Gaye Piety of Drexel University in 2021 conducted a much praised seminar on Repetition, which she had herself translated. Today she will discuss Kierkegaard’s pseudonym Johannes Climacus’s book Philosophical Crumbs (1844), which she has also excellently translated.

2. Fear and Trembling
Dialectical Lyric
by Johannes de silentio
published 16 October 1843
From Problema 3 to the end

Daniel Conway   Anthony Stadlen
Inner Circle Seminar No. 281
Sunday 26 March 2023
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.   2 p.m. to 5 p.m.   London time (GMT)

We have, in four seminars, three of them guided by Professor John Lippitt, closely perused the text of Kierkegaard’s pseudonym Johannes de silentio’s book Fear and Trembling (1843), to the end of Problema 2. Five seminars on the context – the other works published by Kierkegaard and another pseudonym on 16 October 1843 (Three Upbuilding Discourses and Repetition), and divine command theory and the Akedah (the binding of Isaac by Abraham) in Judaism and Islam – have been conducted by Professors George PattisonMarilyn PietyC. Steven Evans, Yehuda Gellman, and Mariam al Attar, respectively. Today Professor Daniel Conway in Australia and Anthony Stadlen in London will lead our fifth seminar on the text of Fear and Trembling from Problema 3 to the end of the book.

[Other seminars in this series will soon be announced.]

Why study Kierkegaard? Everyone now seems to be talking about ‘mental health’. But is this the best way of understanding what people are experiencing in today’s undoubted crises? Are these not existential, ethical, spiritual, religious problems? But what does ‘existential’ mean? And do not many existential therapists object to the ‘religious’, whatever that means? But, again, do not some existential therapists find religious experience, their own or others’, of fundamental importance? Should not all existential therapists at least understand what their religious clients, or clients who say they have had some religious experience, are talking about?
Our subseries of nine seminars between 2018 and 2021 devoted to KierkegaardFear and Trembling and his other books published on 16 October 1843 has showed decisively that a significant number of existential therapists do indeed know and value religious experience. In 2023 we continue with two more seminars on Fear and Trembling, but also broaden out into an exploration over the coming years of Kierkegaards authorship as a whole.
Existential therapists, whether or not they are aware of this, are implicitly using the previously already existing, neutral, English word ‘existential’ to convey something of the more restricted, but also more potent and highly charged, meaning of the Danish word existentiel’ as used and, apparently, actually coined by Søren Kierkegaard (5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855). His pseudonym Johannes Climacus introduced it in Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Crumbs (1846): in its subtitle An Existential Contribution and, for instance, in its discussion of ‘existential pathos’. It  is intended to convey thinking with all one’s being, as an ‘existing’ thinker: as opposed to constructing a ‘system’ which, as his pseudonym Anti-Climacus wrote in The Sickness Unto Death (1849), would be like building a house in which one does not live.
Ludwig Feuerbach used the word ‘existence’ in a similar sense, but he wanted to secularise religious thinking, whereas Kierkegaard affirmed authentic religion as not reducible to social ethics (Sædelighed’ in Danish, Sittlichkeit’ in German).
Martin Heidegger translated Kierkegaards ‘existentiel’ into German as existenziell’ but restricted it to what he called the onticfor the ontological he used existenzial’, a word rare in German, though Edmund Husserl had used it in Philosophy as Rigorous Science (1910-11), and Kierkegaard had even on occasion used, probably coined, a Danish word existential’, meaning for him the same as existentiel’, in his private writings. He is alternatively alleged, but without evidence, to have adopted the word(s) after he learned from a conversation with, or about, the Norwegian poet and critic Johann Sebastian Cammermeyer Welhaven that he used the Norwegian existensiell’ in this way.
The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge had used existential as an English word and meditated on the nature of existence’ in The Friend as early as 1809, before Kierkegaard was born. The philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling influenced ColeridgeKierkegaard, and Heidegger, and was said by Johann Karl Friedrich Rosenkranz to have orally named his own later philosophy as Existenzialphilosophie’; but it is by no means established, although it is possible, that Coleridge's use of existential’ or Kierkegaards use of existentiel' or existential' were themselves directly suggested by, or derived from, Schelling.
None of these usages, of course, should be confused with, or reduced to, the bare existential quantifier (there exists an x such that...) in subsequent logic and mathematics.  
Kierkegaard insisted that, whether pseudonymous (‘with the left hand’) or in his own name (‘with the right hand’), his writing was always religious, though he denounced institutionalised religion (such as Danish 19th-century ‘Christendom’) as a perversion of authentic, existential religion. Much writing by ‘existential’ therapists censors (and implicitly censures) Kierkegaard’s always-religious writing at the outset, claiming to find its ‘relevant’, secular-‘existential’ meaning. Ludwig Binswanger secularises The Sickness Unto Death in this way in his ‘The Case of Ellen West. But this is just what Kierkegaard was attacking as a betrayal.
Nowhere is this more explicit than in Fear and Trembling: A Dialectical Lyric by Johannes de silentio, published in Copenhagen on 16 October 1843, together with two other books, Repetition: An Essay in Experimental Psychology by Constantin Constantinus and Three Upbuilding Discourses by Søren Kierkegaard. Our seminars on this extraordinary event in publishing history, its context, and its implications, started on 14 October 2018, celebrating these three books’ hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary, and will conclude, at least for the time being, on 29 October 2023, the one hundred and eightieth anniversary.
The author of all three books was Kierkegaard, as he acknowledged in ‘A First and Last Declaration’, the further postscript that he, in his own name, added to Concluding Unscientific Postscript.
We bega by exploring this astonishing creative incandescence and its aftermath in a subseries of the Inner Circle Seminars, Kierkegaard: 16 October 1843 and beyond’.
Our close reading of Fear and Trembling will continue in 2023 with the fifth and sixth seminars on this text, conducted by Professor Daniel Conway and other world authorities.
Other leading international specialists will explore over the next few years the other major works by Kierkegaard and his pseudonyms: Philosophical CrumbsThe Concept of AnxietyConcluding Unscientific Postscript, Works of Love, The Sickness Unto Death.
Professor Marilyn Piety, conducted in 2021 and 2023 memorable seminars on Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs, published by the pseudonyms Constantine Constantius and Johannes Climacus in 1843 and 1844, respectively, which she has also translated.
Fear and Trembling focusses with terrible intensity on the dialectical tension between Abraham’s love and awe for God and his love for his son Isaac. It is a ‘dialectical lyric’ on the Akedah, the account (Genesis, 22:1-19) of Abraham’s ‘binding’ of Isaac in preparation for a sacrifice prevented only by an angel’s last-minute intervention. The meaning of the Akedah has been debated for millennia by Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and (more recently) atheist thinkers. It is chanted from the Torah scroll in synagogues at the New Year, with great textual precision, though everyone is free to propose his or her own interpretation. In Christianity it is held to prefigure the crucifixion of Jesus. The Qur’an does not name Ibrahim’s son in this narrative, and Islamic scholars have debated whether it was Ishmael or Isaac; today it is held to have been Ishmael; animal sacrifices on Eid al-Adha commemorate Ibrahim’s sacrifice of a ram instead of Ishmael. The Akedah has been the basis of many great works of art, music, drama, and poetry.
Other seminars, conducted by world authorities, including George PattisonMarilyn PietyC. Stephen EvansJerome (Yehuda) Gellman and Mariam al-Attar, have focussed in turn on: the problem of Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms; the two other works (Three Upbuilding Discourses and Repetition) published with Fear and Trembling on 16 October 1843; the interpretations of the Akedah in Kierkegaard and the Hasidic masters; and whether or not some form of ‘divine command theory’ is advocated by Kierkegaard, his pseudonyms, or any or all of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. (In a dialogue of Plato’s, Euthyphro is confused when Socrates asks him whether the gods love the good because it is good or whether the good is good because the gods love it. Many philosophers have thought that Socrates’s question presents a severe problem for divine command theory, but recently other philosophers have argued that there are forms of this theory not vulnerable to the problem Socrates raises for Euthyphro.)
Kierkegaard insisted in ‘A First and Last Declaration’:
... if it should occur to anyone to want to quote a particular passage from the books, it is my wish, my prayer, that he will do me the kindness of citing the respective pseudonymous author’s name, not mine.
Johannes de silentioJohannes Climacus, and the other pseudonyms are like characters in a drama written by Kierkegaard. He called it ‘indirect communication’, a dialectic of perspectives which invites the reader to work out his or her own point of view. Much commentary on Fear and Trembling and the other pseudonymous works ignores Kierkegaard’s urgent request to respect their pseudonymous nature. This leads to serious misunderstandings. Even the pseudonymous writers sometimes entertain and expound diametrically opposite views within a single work. The pseudonym is not necessarily committed to either view, and Kierkegaard is not necessarily committed either to a polarity of views as entertained by the pseudonym or to either such view as entertained by the pseudonym or to the pseudonyms non-commitment to such a polarity of views or to either of these.
Evaluations of Kierkegaard vary.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, himself one of the most profound thinkers of the 20th century, said Kierkegaard was
       ‘by far the most profound thinker of the last [19th] century
       ‘too deep for me.
Dr Abraham Myerson, a psychiatrist, in 1945 diagnosed Kierkegaard as
       ‘a psychiatric case
and his writing as
     ‘a schizoid and certainly utterly incomprehensible presentation by a mind which is quite deviate.
Professor Ernesto Spinelli, an existential therapist, in his 2017 essay ‘Kierkegaard’s dangerous folly’ in Existential Analysis, denounced Kierkegaard for allegedly admiring Abraham’s
      ‘self-evident lunacy.
Those who have acknowledged indebtedness to, or have struggled with, Søren Kierkegaard include Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, Edvard Munch, Miguel de Unamano, Rainer Maria Rilke, Martin Buber, Theodor Haecker, Ludwig Binswanger, Ferdinand Ebner, Igor Stravinsky, Viktor Emil von Gebsattel, Karl Jaspers, Franz Kafka, Rudolf Bultmann, György Lukács, Niels Bohr, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Charles Williams, Franz Rosenzweig, Georg Trakl, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Emil Brunner, Edith Stein, Herbert Read, Mikhail Bakhtin, Jorge Luis Borges, Viktor Frankl, Jean-Paul Sartre, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Hannah Arendt, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Emmanuel Levinas, Abraham Joshua Heschel, W. H. Auden, Jan Patočka Maurice Blanchot, Simone de Beauvoir, Rollo May, R. S. Thomas, Albert Camus, Thomas Merton, Emil Fackenheim, Iris Murdoch, Thomas Szasz, David Holbrook, Peter Lomas, Alice von Hildebrand, Aaron Esterson, Paul Feyerabend, Gilles Deleuze, Frantz Fanon, John Heaton, R. D. Laing, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jacques Derrida, David Cooper, John Updike, David Lodge, Henrik Stangerup, Roger Poole, Robert Stolorow, Alice Holzhey, and many others.
Kierkegaard’s idea of authentic religion differed from everybody else’s. He had contempt for the Danish Church: for ‘Christendom’, as he called it. For him, religion was radically existential, individual. But his vision of the individual was, despite what many have alleged, the antithesis of an encapsulated, isolated, unsocial, worldless, reified ‘self’. Rather, as Anti-Climacus put it in The Sickness Unto Death, the ‘self’ is a ‘relation’ which ‘relates itself to its own self’; it is ‘that in the relation that the relation relates itself to its own self’, while ‘resting in the [divine] power that established it’; and, as Kierkegaard insisted in his own name in Works of Love (1847), this ‘self’ is only truly itself in loving God andinextricably, the other: whether spouse, child, family member, friend, neighbour, stranger.
One of Heidegger’s most important early courses of lectures was on The Phenomenology of Religious Life (1920-21). Heidegger wrote in Being and Time (1927) that, of all Kierkegaard’s writings, his ‘upbuilding’ (i.e., explicitly religious) works had the most philosophical significance.
Kierkegaard’s work is a fundamental investigation of the existential phenomenology of individual, non-institutionalised, religious experience, as well as the religious implications of all experience, indispensable for unprejudiced understanding of both ‘religious’ and ‘non-religious’ clients.
Professor John Lippitt, who guided our reading of Fear of Trembling in three remarkable seminars, has pointed out in his book Humour and Irony in Kierkegaard’s Thought that Søren Kierkegaard can be very funny. His readers take the risk of being compelled to laugh out loud. As his pseudonym Johannes Climacus wrote in Concluding Unscientific Postscript:
... an existing humourist is the closest approximation to one who is religious ...
These seminars on Kierkegaard’s works have enabled existential therapists, Daseinsanalysts and others, to reflect more deeply on the foundations of their discipline. Invited speakers often attend their colleagues Inner Circle Seminars, in addition to those they themselves conduct.
Professor C. Stephen Evans,  who conducted a superb seminar on Divine Command Theory and Fear and Trembling, described the seminars as
a real intellectual feast.
Professor Marilyn PietyProfessor of Philosophy, Drexel University, Philadephia, USA, who conducted a marvellous seminar on Kierkegaards Repetition on 28 February 2021, wrote: 
I can’t thank you enough for inviting me to be a part of the seminar series. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had. It was a wonderful group of people and an excellent discussion.

And a seminar participant wrote afterwards:

What a remarkable opportunity to sit with some of the greatest Kierkegaard scholars in the world.

These will be online seminars, using Zoom. All are on Sundays, but the times for some of them will differ (see above) from the usual 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time or British Summer Time, to accommodate invited speakers from distant lands.

Individual Kierkegaard seminars: psychotherapy trainees £140, others £175
25% reduction for six Kierkegaard seminars: 
per seminar, psychotherapy trainees £105, others £131
Some bursaries; payable in advance by bank transfer or PayPal; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled 
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 7809 433250   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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