Kierkegaard Project Seminar: Cæcilie Varslev-Pedersen – Københavns Universitet

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Kierkegaard Project Seminar: Cæcilie Varslev-Pedersen

On Letting Go: Sacrifice in Hegel and Kierkegaard

In my seminar presentation, I will focus on Kierkegaard’s critique of instrumentalism in human relations – an instrumentalism which characterizes both intersubjective relations and the relation between a self and her own existence – and his idea that a more authentic subjective existence involves risk-taking, sacrifice and openness to “otherness.”

This discussion is part of a larger project reconstructing the concept of sacrifice in the philosophies of Hegel and Kierkegaard. The historical contexts of these philosophies are of course distinct: writing in the immediate aftermath of the French Revolution, Hegel’s major worry is Kantian moral individualism, while, a few decades later, Kierkegaard is more disturbed by the mass conformism of a now full-fledged bourgeois modernity. Yet despite their different points of departure, Hegel and Kierkegaard are both concerned with recuperating a sense of the self’s dependency on otherness – even while championing the modern notion of individual freedom or autonomy. I suggest that a shared vision of sacrifice, understood as self-releasement (Gelassenheit), plays a central role in this recuperation.

In defending this claim, I share Jon Stewart’s insight that the traditional picture of Kierkegaard as an entirely negative critic of Hegel is in need of more nuance, and my aim is to show that a moment of sacrifice, risk, and dread of self-dispossession is at the center of both Hegel and Kierkegaard’s thinking.