Kierkegaard Project Seminar: Emily Martone – Københavns Universitet

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Kierkegaard Project Seminar: Emily Martone

The Question of Community in Kierkegaard´s Theology and Aesthetics

There is a long tradition of the reception of Kierkegaard’s work that has claimed he lacks interest in social and communitarian life. In contrast to this view, my aim in this paper is to show that Kierkegaard does deal with the relational nature of human being by investigating the role that the communitarian dimension plays in his thought, demonstrating the important contribution he can make to the contemporary debate on the question of community.

How does the other affect and influence, both negatively and positively, the individual in the process of self-realization or becoming a self? Is it a process that, taking place in a solitary relationship with God, excludes any meaningful relation to others? What is the nature of community and what makes a bond with others a communitas rather than a societas? This last fundamental distinction allows a double perspective. On the one hand, Kierkegaard’s criticism of modern associations provides a tool for diagnosing central phenomena and features of twenty-first century society, in which we witness the reduction of being to perceiving and being perceived and where the criterion of truth is appearance. On the other hand, his description of Christian community, even though it seems at first glance old-fashioned and diametrically opposed to worldly society, displays some relational dynamics that allow us to reconstruct a positive model of community.

Kierkegaard’s interpretation of the cum (‘with’), which relates individuals to each other, brings him into conversation with Jean-Luc Nancy and Roberto Esposito, who regard community neither as a property belonging to subjects that joins them together nor as a substance produced by their union, but rather as a debt, a pledge, a gift that is to be given. Community is what makes them no longer masters of themselves, rather it expropriates them of what is most proper to them, namely, their very subjectivity  I will combine this particular meaning of community with the notion of social aesthetics (Barbara Carnevali), the idea that all that is social appears to and through the senses, thus aesthetically. Appearance is not a pathologic degeneration or weak form of sociality, rather it creates, establishes and represents social bonds and is therefore the physiological condition of sociality. I will therefore investigate the nature of intersubjective relations in Kierkegaard’s first aesthetics and in his second, theological aesthetics (Ettore Rocca).