• Kierkegaard on the transformative power of art
    History of European Ideas 47 (3): 429-442. 2021.
    ABSTRACT Kierkegaard seeks to inspire transformations. His aim is to get us to devote our lives to God or the Good rather than our own personal enjoyment – to abandon the aesthetic life in favour of the ethical or religious one. Drawing on Laurie Paul and Agnes Callard’s recent work, I maintain that two obstacles stand in Kierkegaard’s way. First, transformations involve adopting a new perspective on the world, one we cannot fully grasp ahead of time. Second, transformations also involve coming …Read more
  •  191
    Forgiveness and the Multiple Functions of Anger
    with Zac Cogley
    Journal of Philosophy of Emotion 1 (1): 44-71. 2019.
    This paper defends an account of forgiveness that is sensitive to recent work on anger. Like others, we claim anger involves an appraisal, namely that someone has done something wrong. But, we add, anger has two further functions. First, anger communicates to the wrongdoer that her act has been appraised as wrong and demands she feel guilty. This function enables us to explain why apologies make it reasonable to forgo anger and forgive. Second, anger sanctions the wrongdoer for what she has done…Read more
  • Review of The Paradoxical Rationality of Søren Kierkegaard (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2014. 2014.
    Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) has often been cast as an irrationalist -- an enemy of reason, logic, and perhaps even truth. It is easy to see why. Some of his works encourage us to "crucify" our understanding or to take a leap of faith beyond the evidence.[1] We also encounter texts suggesting that passionate beliefs are more important than true ones.[2] Perhaps his most frequently read book, Fear and Trembling, lauds Abraham for following God's commands "by virtue of the absurd."[3] Finally, a …Read more
  •  1689
    Near the end of the Republic, Plato challenges defenders of poetry to explain how it “not only gives pleasure but is beneficial . . . to human life.”1 We sometimes hear a heightened version of this demand. Partisans not just of poetry but also of literature in general are asked to establish that the arts they celebrate possess a distinctive or unique value. In other words, they must show that poetry and literature are irreplaceable and that we would lose some great good were they banished from t…Read more
  • Kierkegaard and Asceticism
    Existenz 1 (13): 39-43. 2018.
    In Religion of Existence, Noreen Khawaja suggests that Kierkegaard is an “ascetic” thinker. By this, she means that he regards religious striving as (1) requiring ceaseless renewal and (2) being an end in itself rather than a means to some further end. In this paper, I raise challenges to both parts of Khawaja’s proposal. I argue that the first part stands in tension with Kierkegaard’s assertion that his infinitely demanding account of religious existence is meant merely as a “corrective.” The s…Read more
  •  133
    Kierkegaard on the Value of Art: An Indirect Method of Communication
    In Patrick Stokes, Eleanor Helms & Adam Buben (eds.), The Kierkegaardian Mind. pp. 166-176. 2019.
    Like many 19th c. thinkers, Kierkegaard embraces a cognitivist view of art. He thinks works of art matter because they can teach us in important ways. This chapter defends two striking features of Kierkegaard’s version of this theory. First, works of art do not teach “directly” by telling us truths and offering us evidence. Instead, they educate us “indirect-ly” by helping us make our own discoveries. Second, the fact that art does not teach in a straightforward manner is no defect. On the contr…Read more
  •  1711
    The Relationship Between Aesthetic Value and Cognitive Value
    Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 72 (2): 117-127. 2014.
    Recent attention to the relationship between aesthetic value and cognitive value has focused on whether the latter can affect the former. In this article, I approach the issue from the opposite direction. I investigate whether the aesthetic value of a work can influence its cognitive value. More narrowly, I consider whether a work's aesthetic value ever contributes to or detracts from its philosophical value, which I take to include the truth of its claims, the strength of its arguments, and its…Read more
  •  38
    Drawing on insights from Søren Kierkegaard, Art and Selfhood: A Kierkegaardian Account defends the idea that art matters in our society today because it can play a pivotal role in helping us become better and more authentic versions of ourselves.
  •  547
    Following the pattern set by the early German Romantics, Kierkegaard conveys many of his insights through literature rather than academic prose. What makes him a valuable member of this tradition is the theory he develops to support it, his so-called “theory of indirect communication.” The most exciting aspect of this theory concerns the alleged importance of indirect communication: Kierkegaard claims that there are some projects only it can accomplish. This paper provides a critical account of …Read more
  •  73
    In The Ethics of Authorship, Daniel Berthold depicts G. W. F. Hegel and Søren Kierkegaard as endorsing two postmodern principles. The first is an ethical ideal. Authors should abdicate their traditional privileged position as arbiters of their texts’ meaning. They should allow readers to determine this meaning for themselves. Only by doing so will they help readers attain genuine selfhood. The second principle is a claim about language. To wit, language cannot express an author’s thoughts. I arg…Read more
  •  740
    Kierkegaard on the Need for Indirect Communication
    Dissertation, Indiana University. 2008.
    This dissertation concerns Kierkegaard’s theory of indirect communication. A central aspect of this theory is what I call the “indispensability thesis”: there are some projects only indirect communication can accomplish. The purpose of the dissertation is to disclose and assess the rationale behind the indispensability thesis. A pair of questions guides the project. First, to what does ‘indirect communication’ refer? Two acceptable responses exist: (1) Kierkegaard’s version of Socrates’ midwife…Read more
  •  699
    Kierkegaard, Paraphrase, and the Unity of Form and Content
    Philosophy Today 57 (4): 376-387. 2013.
    On one standard view, paraphrasing Kierkegaard requires no special literary talent. It demands no particular flair for the poetic. However, Kierkegaard himself rejects this view. He says we cannot paraphrase in a straightforward fashion some of the ideas he expresses in a literary format. To use the words of Johannes Climacus, these ideas defy direct communication. In this paper, I piece together and defend the justification Kierkegaard offers for this position. I trace its origins to concerns r…Read more
  •  41
    A Moral Problem for Difficult Art
    Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 74 (4): 383-396. 2016.
    Works of art can be difficult in several ways. One important way is by making us face up to unsettling truths. Such works typically receive praise. I maintain, however, that sometimes they deserve moral censure. The crux of my argument is that, just as we have a right to know the truth in certain contexts, so too we have a right not to know it. Provided our ignorance does not harm or seriously endanger others, the decision about whether to know the truth ought to be left to us. Within this limit…Read more
  •  513
    Sartre’s View of Kierkegaard as Transhistorical Man
    Journal of Philosophical Research 31 361-372. 2006.
    This paper illuminates the central arguments in Sartre's UNESCO address, 'The Singular Universal." The address begins by asking whether objective facts tell us everything there is to know about Kierkegaard. Sartre's answer is negative. The question then arises as to whether we can lay hold of Kierkegaard's "irreducible subjectivity" by seeing him as alive for us today, i.e., as transhistorical. Sartre's answer here is affirmative. However, a close inspection of this answer exposes a deeper level…Read more
  •  197
    On the Validity of Pascal's Wager
    Heythrop Journal 55 (1): 86-93. 2014.
    Recent scholarship has shown that the success of Pascal’s wager rests on precarious grounds. To avoid notorious problems, it must appeal to considerations such as what probability we assign to the existence of various gods and what religion we think provides the greatest happiness in this life. Rational judgments concerning these matters are subject to change over time. Some claim that the wager therefore cannot support a steadfast commitment to God. I argue that this conclusion does not follow.…Read more
  •  654
    Kierkegaard’s case for the irrelevance of philosophy
    Continental Philosophy Review 42 (2): 221-248. 2009.
    This paper provides an account of Kierkegaard’s central criticism of the Danish Hegelians. Contrary to recent scholarship, it is argued that this criticism has a substantive theoretical basis and is not merely personal or ad hominem in nature. In particular, Kierkegaard is seen as criticizing the Hegelians for endorsing an unacceptable form of intellectual elitism, one that gives them pride of place in the realm of religion by dint of their philosophical knowledge. A problem arises, however, bec…Read more
  •  631
    Self-Love and Neighbor-Love in Kierkegaard's Ethics
    Kierkegaard Studies Yearbook 2013 (1). 2013.
    Kierkegaard faces an apparent dilemma. On the one hand, he concurs with the biblical injunction: we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. He takes this to imply that self-love and neighbor-love should be roughly symmetrical, similar in kind as well as degree. On the other hand, he recommends relating to others and to ourselves in disparate ways. We should be lenient, charitable, and forgiving when interacting with neighbors; the opposite when dealing with ourselves. The goal of my paper is to …Read more