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ISSN 0869-5377
The Logos Journal

Kierkegaard, Fichte and the Subject of Idealism

Author: O’Neill Burns Michael

About author:
Senior Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, University of the West of England. Address: Frenchay Campus, Coldharbour Lane, BS16 1QY Bristol, UK. E-mail:

While the philosophical and religious authorship of Søren Kierkegaard is often said to be absolutely anti-systematic, and in particular anti-idealist in its orientation, this essay argues that Kierkegaar’s philosophical project can in fact be best interpreted as offering a critical appropriation of the philosophy of German Idealism. Through a reading of his text, Johannes Climacus, the author shows that Kierkegaard is interested in exploring the existential stakes of the philosophy of German Idealism from the perspective of the dynamic development of consciousness. Along with this, he uses the work of J. G. Fichte to further show the manner in which this concern with the life of the individual subject places Kierkegaard in continuity with one of the key figures of German Idealism. Along with a systematic reading which places Kierkegaard in clear historical continuity with German Idealism, the paper concludes by arguing that this idealist interpretation of Kierkegaard not only places his thought more clearly in a nineteenth century philosophical context, but equally that this reading can offer conceptual support to contemporary theories of subjectivity. In particular, the author argues that only by rereading the work of Kierkegaard via the conceptual framework of German Idealism can we bring his thought to life in a way that makes it absolutely crucial to contemporary philosophical debates on the nature of subjectivity and the political.

Keywords: Søren Kierkegaard; Johann Gottlieb Fichte; subjectivity; German Idealism

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