Derrida and the Professors.

In his famous pronouncement against the future professors who will inevitably take interest in his journals, Kierkegaard writes:


That I shall acquire a certain renown, surely not even my bitterest enemy will deny. But I begin now to wonder whether I shan’t become famous in a genre quite different from the one I had envisaged, whether I shan’t become famous as a naturalist, in that I have made discoveries or at least delivered a very considerable contribution to the natural history of parasites. The parasites I have in mind are priests and professors, these greedy and virulently self-reproductive parasites which even have the shamelessness (which is more than other parasites have) to want to be of service to those they live off. (XI 2 A 277)

Not very nice, yet ultimately a prophetic observation that is cited by professors as a proof of the greatness of their subject, cited sometimes with a kind of self-depreciation that is considered to be a good enough penance for the thankless job of studying such an ungrateful thinker – here we are editing, collecting, and publishing his multiple journals, essays and books, and yet he dares to accuse us of being parasites and useless idlers! However abusive Kierkegaard is, especially at the end of his life, the image of a parasite is hard to dismiss in light of all the secondary literature on Kierkegaard…  Take the old discussion of the status of the secondary literature – is it really fair to the thinker to write a commentary after commentary when he himself explicitly mocks the idea and takes it to be a gross misrepresentation of his work? On one hand, one could claim that the very title of an “expert” on Kierkegaard should be so ironic and disconcerting that various reports of suicides among Kierkegaard professors should be a norm in the news. On the other hand, so what if Kierkegaard ridiculed his future experts – we don’t have to listen to his judgments, because he clearly wanted to be studied, wanted to be the object of future admiration and here is the proof from his writings etc etc. Think about someone closer to our time, someone like Derrida – can we think of his “disciples” as betraying the thought of the Master by producing a stream of secondary literature I have previously described as “derridalogy”? Continue reading

Continental Philosophy Review, Volume 40, Number 3 (July 2007)

Just a quick reference to this interesting issue of Continental Philosophy Review – published by Springer (Nederlands) – this is the latest issue and it contains, among other things, a translation of an essay by Levinas and an great essay on a (possible) Levinasian reading of Kierkegaard’s Works of Love:


  • Emmanuel Levinas, “Being Jewish” (trans. Mary Beth Mader, University of Memphis) : 205-210

Abstract: “Being Jewish” is a translation of Emmanuel Levinas’ 1947 essay “Être Juif.” Its topics include Jewish and Sartrean facticities; modern science, Christianity and Judaic temporality; Judaism and the non-Jewish world; personhood and election; freedom, passivity and anxiety; and anti-Jewish hatred. The original essay was first published in the French journal Confluences, 1947, année 7, nos. 15–17, pp. 253–264. It was reprinted in Cahiers d’Etudes lévinassiennes, 2003, Numéro 1, pp. 99–106. The Editor and Translator would like to thank Michaël Levinas for his kind permission to publish the English translation of “Être Juif.” Continue reading

Joakim Garff, Søren Kierkegaard: A Biorgaphy (Review by Tatiana Patrone)

This is a review of Garff’s huge (pages-wise and achievement-wise, including the ability to make a paperback that is as heavy as a hardback) biography of Kierkegaard by Tatiana Patrone of Ithaca College.  It was published in the recent issue of Metapsychology Online Reviews  (October 23rd, 2007 – vol. 11, no.43) – enjoy!

“Even though Kierkegaard’s journals and published writings seem to tell us almost too much, we have no idea what he was really like” (13).  In his carefully crafted and finely written biography of Kierkegaard, Joakim Garff tells a fascinating philosophical story of Kierkegaard’s life, a story that is bound to interest and to captivate not only philosophers who have long been attracted to Kierkegaard’s thought, but also to anyone who would like to take a look at a great thinker’s life.

Kierkegaard’s corpus is vast and yet, as Garff says, “we have no idea what he was really like.”  Indeed, Kierkegaard himself wrote:  “after my death, this is my consolation:  no one will be able to find in my papers one single bit of information about what has really filled my life” (101).  Garff argues that from the moment Kierkegaard started to write he was very careful to come up and to maintain a myth of himself, an interpretation of his own life story (philosophical and social, romantic and familial), a story that he presents to his future biographers and readers, a story in which every thought and every word is masterfully expressed and documented ‘just right.’  In fact, Garff claims, Kierkegaard was not manipulating his reader; on the contrary — he himself saw his life as a narrative to be uncovered and told in such a way that it would make certain sense to him as the one who was living this life.  That is, looking back at his own past, Kierkegaard was always in the business of recollecting it rather than merely remembering it (97).  Garff goes as far as to remark that in this, “deception and self-deception walk faithfully hand in hand” (202).  However, the picture of Kierkegaard that Garff paints is quite moving — Kierkegaard’s seriousness with respect to his life projects and to how they were to be taken by his contemporaries and by his successors both inspires and humbles.  In this picture, Kierkegaard does not appear to be writing in bad faith; on the contrary — he comes off as a philosopher who treats philosophizing and reflection upon one’s life and work with utmost earnestness. Continue reading

In Which I Finally Admit to Myself That I Do Not Get Fear and Trembling

So I am reading Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling again and I am having a hard time with it this time around, I think primarily because I have always assumed that I knew what it was about.  If one takes the whole Abraham story as a kind of uber-example of faith and faith here would have nothing to do with “belief” but would be “the highest passion in a person,” then I am not sure what the book is really about.  Now I know exactly how to help myself understand this book, that is, by going to a ton of secondary literature that would give me all I need: context, multiple interpretations, ideas and etc. But I am courageously resisting the temptation because I feel that it is important that I only deal with this particular text – there is no reason why I feel this way, but I am sticking to it.   I think my primary confusion comes from the fact that I actually took seriously the multiple prefaces to the book’s three chapters.  I believe that by taking those somewhat annoying and seemingly purposeless introductions I have realized that the book is really not about Abraham and his particular story but about this strange “hero/knight of faith” that, in Preliminary Expectoration is described in very interesting terms:   Continue reading

This Day in the History of Philosophy

October 11, 1841

An obscure Danish thinker Søren Kierkegaard, after returning the engagement ring to his fiancée Regine Olsen on August 11th of the same year, finally decides to break off the engagement completely and in person possibly sensing that breaking up with “a love of your life” with a letter would not work as a great excuse of all the tortured years to follow. The break-up in person goes well. He leaves for Berlin and proceed to explode into an enormous amount of books and journal entries, according to some so-called scholars, he does so in order to get over the fact that he could not marry Regine Olsen. 

Ever since that day, all lonely and awkward teenage boys with a taste for human tragedy read Kierkegaard’s journal entries and letters about his fatal break-up and imagine that if indeed they would ever succeed in securing anything even remotely resembling a girlfriend, they would immediately break-up with her under the most mysterious circumstances. Sometimes they cry out: “Oh Regine!” in their sleep.


PS. Upon closer inspection of the included picture of Regine Olsen, she is judged to be hot by the author of this entry.