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Title: Love in Kierkegaard's Symposia
Contributor(s): McDonald, William (author)
Publication Date: 2003
Open Access: Yes
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Abstract: Kierkegaard presents two radically different conceptions of love (eros and agape) in his writings, in three different ways (parody, aporia and edification). Kierkegaard's prime literary model for eros is Plato's Symposium, which culminates in Diotima's argument for a continuum between immediate, sensate, erotic love and the divine. Kierkegaard repeatedly parodies the notion of eros as a scala paradisi in his pseudonymous "first authorship," in order to show its inadequacy from the point of view of Christian faith.In his "second authorship" Kierkegaard presents a very different notion of love from this pagan, aesthetic notion - the Christian notion of agape, the selfless love of one's neighbor. Eros and agape are characterized in mutually exclusive terms (e.g. selfish/selfless, happiness/suffering, desire/duty, recollection/repetition, possession/debt, immanent/transcendent, luck/gift). But the conceptual presentation of agape, as a divine gift and as a self-effacing duty to others, results in aporia. It suffers from irresolvable conceptual puzzles (e.g. God is the subject of love, the object of love, and is the relation of love - love loves love - yet this love is directed towards others, not oneself) and is emotively counter-intuitive (e.g. love is a duty not a feeling). As long as we try to grasp agape conceptually or intuitively via Kierkegaard's writings, the latter will themselves constitute a scala paradisi - and must be thrown away.The only proper presentation of agape is as edification, using God's own words of love. Kierkegaard's "Edifying Discourses" presuppose that "the single individual" to whom they are addressed has already received agape as a divine gift. The proper work of Christian love, then, is to build up this love that already exists in the reader.This paper traces these two notions of love in Kierkegaard's writings, and their three modes of presentation, though it focuses in particular on the parodies of eros in the "aesthetic authorship" and the aporias of agape in the "second authorship." It leaves the "Edifying Discourses" to build up the reader on their own terms. The paper also shows how Kierkegaard superimposes Hegel's dialectic of selfhood on his parodies of the Symposium, with particular attention to Hegel's discussion of mutual recognition in the constitution of selfhood, and the relations between self-recognition and work in the master/slave dialectic. These Hegelian inflections are in turn explored in the aporetic treatment of love and self in the "second authorship."
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Minerva - An Internet Journal of Philosophy, v.7, p. 60-93
Publisher: University of Limerick
Place of Publication: Limerick, Ireland
ISSN: 1393-614X
Field of Research (FOR): 220315 Philosophy of Religion
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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