Aim and Scope

Research at the SKC is based on two main approaches: one historical-philological, and the other systematic. On the one hand, it is important to understand Kierkegaard’s work in its historical context. On the other hand, understanding his work requires the reader to think along with him. This undertaking thus entails a critical assessment of the relationship between different approaches to his work, especially the relationship between a historical reconstruction and an ‘application’ of his thinking based on current concerns. An accurate reading of Kierkegaard’s texts requires a sense for the questions they set out to address. Conversely, readers often experience that the texts speak from somewhere else and say something different from what we expect. If, for example, it strikes us that the texts concern identity, we might, upon further reading and reflection, develop a critical view of the ways we ourselves speak about identity. Historical texts thus give us the opportunity to learn to ask our own questions differently. One insight we might encounter while reading Kierkegaard’s texts—which often concern the relationship between history and existence—is that human self-understanding is at stake when we deal with texts from the past. A central problem for readers of Kierkegaard is interpreting the significance of the requirement of appropriation as formulated in his texts. We thus return to the question of understanding the existential conditions we share as human beings.

The fundamental question of what it means to be what we are—human beings—appears in a complex of themes, such as those of freedom and nature, individuality and sociality, thinking and belief, identity and formation, understanding and suffering, and history and time. These themes, which lend themselves well to  interdisciplinary research, are reflected in the humanities and social sciences, as well as in the natural sciences. Above all, the aim is to reformulate what we could call Kierkegaard’s prism with regard to the relationship between freedom and subjugation, the community and the masses, and spirit and spiritlessness. Likewise, phenomena such as anxiety, despair, joy, faith, hope, concern, courage, guilt, repentance, and forgiveness are central. These many themes come together in the question about what it means to be human.

A prominent aim of research at the Centre is to clarify the relationship between fundamental existential conditions and various ways of existing. What is the meaning of the existential in relation to the aesthetic, the ethical, or the religious? A human being, as an existing being in the process of ‘becoming’, is always part of a developing story. How does this relate to the radical project that Kierkegaard sees in ‘becoming Christian’?