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Title: A critical comparison of William James and Søren Kierkegaard on religious belief
Author: Chipp, Jonathan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2685 6827
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis is a critical comparison of the accounts of religious belief proposed by William James and Søren Kierkegaard. Both James and Kierkegaard greatly emphasize the subjective aspects of religious belief. In view of this fact, surprisingly little comparative work has been done in this area. I contribute to this literature in two ways. Firstly, I make a brief assessment of what James knew of Kierkegaard’s work. Secondly, I draw four comparisons between Kierkegaard and James. In Chapter One I examine the claim that Kierkegaard proposes a pragmatist account of faith of the kind that James sets out in his essay The Will To Believe. I argue that this claim rests on a misunderstanding of Kierkegaard’s argument that to have faith is to take a risk. In the following chapter I discuss James’s and Kierkegaard’s views on formal proofs for the existence of God. Both philosophers reject the notion that faith can be based on such proofs. I distinguish between their positions, and argue in favour of Kierkegaard’s. In the third chapter I compare Kierkegaard’s and James’s accounts of religious experience. James views religious experiences as a special kind of evidence for the existence of God. For Kierkegaard it is a mistake to view religious experiences as evidence. Such experiences should be understood in relation to the concept of religious authority. In the final chapter I examine Kierkegaard’s conception of faith as a life-view. I argue that for Kierkegaard a life-view is a fundamental perspective on one’s existence. I compare this conception with James’s concept of philosophical temperament and in relation to his discussion of the sick soul.
Supervisor: Schoenbaumsfeld, Genia Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BL Religion