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?


Wednesday, August 16

13:00-13:15   Joakim Garff: Words of Welcome

Afternoon Session (Chairperson: George Pattison)

13:15-13:45   Ingolf U. Dalferth: Not a Negation, but a Position: Kierkegaard on Evil and Sin

13:45-14:15   Discussion

14:15-14:30   Break

14:30-15:00   Ettore Rocca: "Evil, Sin and the (Failed) Proof of the Existence of God

15:00-15:30   Discussion

15:30-16:00   Emily Martone: “Rethinking the Relation between Subjectivity and Evil through a Kenotic Understanding of Power”

16:00-16:30   Discussion

16:30-18:00   Reception at the Marketplace

Thursday, August 17

Morning Session (Chairperson: Lilian Munk Rösing)

10:00-10:30   Ulrika Carlsson: Climate Despair and Christian Flagellation

10:30-11:00   Discussion

11:00-11:15   Break

11:15-11:45   Isak Winkel Holm: ”Kierkegaard and Climate Catastrophe: Towards an Eco-Existential Approach”

11:45-12:15   Discussion

12:15-13:15   Lunch Break

Afternoon Session (Chairperson: Vincent Delecroix)

13:15-13:45   Heiko Schulz: “Antiteleological Theodicy. Addressing the Problem of Evil from a Kierkegaardian Standpoint”

13:45-14:15   Discussion

14:15-14:45   Jeff Hansen: ”Radical Evil and Ontological Privation: The Case of Kierkegaard”

14:45-15:15   Discussion

15:15-15:30   Break

15:30-16:00   Cassandre Caballero: “The Sickness Unto Death Penalty. To Condemn the Other to Despair for the Sake of one’s own Despair”

16:00-16:30   Discussion

Friday, August 18

Morning Session (Chairperson: Ingolf Dalferth)

10:00-10:30   Anna L. Söderquist: “Caught Between Two Evils: Either/Or on Boredom and Ideal Modes

10:30-11:00   Discussion

11:00-11:15   Break

11:15-11:45   Lena Mausbach: “Original Sin and Transmission of Trauma. A Dialog of Kierkegaard’s Hamartiology and the Phenomenon of Transgenerationality

11:45-12:15   Discussion

12:15-13:15   Lunch Break

Afternoon Session (Chairperson: Ettore Rocca)

13:15-13:45   David Possen: ”Too Much of a Good Thing? Transparency and Evil in Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Psychology”

13:45-14:15   Discussion

14:15-14:30   Joakim Garff: Concluding Words