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Title: Kierkegaard's post-Enlightenment subject : the grammar and goal of belief
Author: Penner, M. B.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2001
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Soren Kierkegaard's thesis, "Truth is Subjectivity", is presented in Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, as the central philosophical concept of his pseudonymous authorship. Contrary to most readings, it is argued here that Kierkegaard's subjectivity principle is epistemologically normative, not for ethical and religious beliefs only, but for a wider, general epistemology as well. The significance of Kierkegaard's claim that truth is subjectivity is that Kierkegaard is recasting epistemological issues in theological and ethical terms. Part One argues that Kierkegaard formulates his subjectivity principle as a response to the Enlightenment epistemologies, specifically of Kant and Hegel, and more generally Descartes, that seek to ground epistemology infallibly in the metaphysical resources of human rationality. Kierkegaard limits the scope of reason and philosophy in a manner that is reminiscent of the late Wittgenstein, and understands the activity of philosophy as analogous to grammar. What is glossed over by Enlightenment epistemology is the human subject's involvement in any act of belief. Rather than seeing human subjectivity as a hindrance to the pursuit of truth, Kierkegaard understands subjectivity (for humans) to be the means of attaining truth. There are two basic types of subjectivity for Kierkegaard. Constitutional subjectivity refers to human persons as beings who achieve subjectivity, or a first-person perspective on the world. Reflexive subjectivity, on the other hand, refers to the general subject-forming activities that comprise the process of becoming subjective, and has as its primary constituent a reflective component. These senses of subjectivity combine to provide Kierkegaard's subjectivity principle with its normative and critical capacity. Part Two outlines how Kierkegaard's two senses of subjectivity function normatively with respect to beliefs. This section demonstrates that Kierkegaard's grammar of subjectivity in the end is a grammar of belief also. The conclusion of the dissertation is that Kierkegaard's subjectivity principle is a meta-epistemological principle through which Kierkegaard details an ethic of belief that is ultimately theological in nature.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available