Kierkegaard and Hegel: Motion, Modality, and the Absolute Open Access

Davidshofer, Claudine Marie (2014)

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It has long been the standard view among commentators that Kierkegaard is the harsh critic of Hegel, and that he finds little of value in Hegel's work. Yet, surprisingly, few scholars have attempted a thorough study of the relation between Hegel's and Kierkegaard's philosophies. In this dissertation, I perform this in-depth, systematic study, by looking at both systems in their most foundational elements: motion and modality. The dissertation is divided into two main parts: metaphysics and existence.

In Part One, I examine Hegel's and Kierkegaard's views of the Absolute by looking at how they explain the most foundational metaphysical elements of the Absolute: motion and modality. I show why Kierkegaard thinks that Hegel falls just short of explaining both transition and actuality, and why, therefore, he responds with such an un-Hegelian view of the Absolute, which is divided between immanence and divine transcendence and which depends on transcendence for motion, for modality, for everything. In Part Two, I examine whether Kierkegaard thinks that Hegelian philosophy applies to concrete existence, whether the individual can be a Hegelian in daily life. I look at whether the individual can use Hegel's views of motion and modality to navigate transition and actuality in daily life. Once again, we see that Kierkegaard thinks that Hegel falls just short of explaining motion and modality, and he thinks that the individual needs faith and transcendence to make sense of everyday existence. In both parts, I show how "leap" and "repetition" are Kierkegaard's responses to Hegel's principles of motion and modality, in particular, mediation.

Overall, Kierkegaard thinks that Hegel is only almost right; Hegelian mediation only almost works. These "almosts" and "not quites" make Hegel's philosophy fairly useless, in both metaphysics and in existence. But even though Kierkegaard ends up with a very un-Hegelian view of the metaphysical-existential whole, he is still deeply influenced by Hegel. He cannot get rid of Hegel and Hegelian mediation so easily. I show throughout that some of Kierkegaard's most "Kierkegaardian" principles (leap and repetition) are adaptations of and responses to some of Hegel's most "Hegelian" principles (mediation).

Table of Contents

Abbreviations 1

Introduction 2

Part I: Does Hegel's Metaphysics Work?

Chapter One: Transition and the Metaphysical Absolute 11

Chapter Two: Actuality and the Metaphysical Absolute 37

Part II: Does Hegel's Metaphysics Apply to Everyday Life?

(What is it like to be a Hegelian in daily life?)

Chapter Three: Navigating Transition in Everyday Existence 76

Chapter Four: Navigating Actuality in Everyday Existence 117

Bibliography 153

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