SKC Annual Conference 2023

16th – 18th August 2023 

The Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre,

Copenhagen University

“Kierkegaard and Evil”


The notion evil is present like a watermark throughout significant portions of Kierkegaard’s writings. As Vigilius Haufniensis presents the matter in The Concept of Anxiety, evil is inseparable from sin, which came into the world with the Fall. Evil is also the human being’s turning-away from God, and finds expression in a person’s unsuccessful attempts to re-acquire himself. Anti-Climacus develops this in The Sickness unto Death, in which depictions of the human being’s desire to get rid of himself constitute a richly insightful psychological reformulation of the problem of evil. But evil also reveals itself in the mutual relations among human beings, where self-defeating self-love and misunderstood self-assertion are manifestations of the evil that Kierkegaard investigates phenomenologically in Works of Love. In a less metaphysical and dogmatic-technical sense, Kierkegaard can also use the notion of evil in writing about the press, natural science, the crowd, and other phenomena which were typical of his times and which, in Kierkegaard’s view, undermined closeness and confidence between people.

The intent of this year’s SKC Annual Conference is not simply to define and illuminate the nature of evil as it appears in Kierkegaard’s extensive writings, but also to facilitate a discussion of the status and relevance of his work on evil in a globalized world, which in recent decades has been ravaged by crises, catastrophes, and wars. These events have made current, once again, the question of the origin of evil, and make it reasonable to ask how it might be possible to enter into a dialogue with Kierkegaard concerning the condition of the present-day world. 

With the sense of downfall and ruination that pervades a number of his works, has Kierkegaard anticipated our present situation? And does Kierkegaard’s way of thinking—with its emphasis on the precedence, in principle, of the individual, but also of that same individual’s notorious susceptibility to error—offer a viable alternative to the view of human nature and the understanding of the world that apparently dominates the 21st century? In other words, is it possible, in Kierkegaard’s work, to discover alternatives to the instrumentalization that is threatening the living world with destruction? Does his work contain counterfactual notions and utopian theories that can be reformulated and incorporated in present-day discussions? And how could this reformulation be carried out in such a way that the Kierkegaardian watermark would be preserved?

If you wish to present a paper at the SKC Annual Conference 2023, please submit a paper proposal including a title and a short description of your paper (max 350 words) before April 1, 2023, to Bjarne Still Laurberg: