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Title: Kierkegaard, Martensen, and the problem of philosophy and theology
Author: Li, Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 9356 5173
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis argues that Martensen should be considered a key interlocutor for Kierkegaard in the debate about how philosophy and theology should relate. It will be shown that whereas Martensen develops what can be termed a dialectic of unity-in-difference, in which the differences between philosophy, theology, and religion enable a higher unity between these spheres, Kierkegaard develops what can be termed a dialectic of similarity-in-dissimilarity, which underlines the incommensurable gap between philosophy and Christianity. However, it will be argued that Kierkegaard’s conception of the relationship as similarity-in-dissimilarity leads to a richer dialogical space between the spheres that keeps the dialectic in continual tension, whereas Martensen’s emphasis on unity and epistemological clarity ultimately leads to a break-down in the dialectic he aims to express, as the philosophical sphere is sublated into the religious standpoint and thereby the dialogue cannot be sustained. In contrast, Kierkegaard’s clear-cut separation of the spheres and insistence on the continued distance between them prevents the reduction of either sphere as their difference and respective integrity remains intact. The question of the proper relationship between philosophy and Christianity thereby helpfully frames the dispute between Kierkegaard and Martensen. Yet this thesis also suggests that the dissimilarity between Martensen and Kierkegaard might be said to consist to some extent in their similarities. Without considering Martensen as a central opponent for Kierkegaard in this debate, our understanding of Kierkegaard’s separation of the philosophical and religious spheres will be impoverished. When viewed in conversation with and, in particular, as polemic against Martensen, we see the full force of the sophistication, innovation, and nuance of Kierkegaard’s formulation of his position.
Supervisor: Rasmussen, Joel D. S. Sponsor: Elfan Rees Scholarship & Faculty of Theology and Religion ; Anglo-Danish Society Award
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History of Ideas ; Philosophy of Religion ; History of Philosophy ; Theology