A searching account of the self in Kierkegaard’s work.
Leone has been grappling with Kierkegaard for the bulk of his adult life. Now, with a Ph.D. and Doctor of Theology degree in hand, he captures that long-standing engagement. Kierkegaard’s complex legacy has been claimed by two often strikingly disjunctive traditions: the Christian and the existential. Leone, however, argues that a sensitive reading of the Danish philosopher reveals that the two strains are inseparable, producing an inclusive view of the self that is aware of its worldly manifestations as well as its spiritual relationship to the absolute. “God is the absolute,” he says, “but love, often associated with God, either as God’s love for us or our love for God, is in the realm of the universal.” The theological self crescendos in human spirituality in its relation to the absolute, and the existential self asserts its being free of any independent or external frameworks. “We are not manifestations of any objective overarching reality, such as what the great systems represent, whether religious, political, philosophical, or social,” Leone writes. Kierkegaard presented this dialectical rendering of the self as a dialogue between Socrates and Jesus—representing “the two poles of his existence”—which Leone examines as evidence of Kierkegaard’s complex personality. Along the way, Leone astutely tackles some of the central topics in Kierkegaard’s often esoteric body of work, including his unconventional view of God, his radical interpretation of faith, and his groundbreaking view of ethics, which turn out to be demanding but unencumbered by normative standards. What emerges from this analysis is a lively portrait of a philosopher who understood better than any philosopher before him the basic paradox of the self. Leone’s prose is refreshingly lucid for what is essentially an academic monograph. Still, the scholarly aims require a close read, so this may be challenging for those not accustomed to dense, research-heavy literature.
A welcome, rigorous contribution to Kierkegaard-ian scholarship.