Faith and Nothingness in Kierkegaard: A Mystical Reading of the God-Relationship

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Purdue University


In this dissertation, I argue that Kierkegaard's relationship to the mystical tradition is misconstrued in the secondary literature, and that a fuller account of his attitude toward mysticism reveals a more appreciative stance toward it, which in turn reveals a more mystical religious dialectic. To that end, in the first chapter, I give an account of what is taken to be Kierkegaard's anti-mysticism, and then show that the resources in other signed sources, like Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers, allow us to see that Kierkegaard dislikes what he calls mysticism, but what he calls mysticism is not what contemporary scholarship believes it to be. Accordingly, Kierkegaard himself could be a mystic on some definitions of that term. ^ The three chapters that immediately follow are devoted to explicating Kierkegaard's religious dialectic in such a way as to show that mystical themes pervade the work. In the second chapter, I argue that the nothingness of the self (a mystical motif) is a necessary condition, according to Kierkegaard, for any wholeness that the self might acquire. Further, in the third chapter, I argue that Kierkegaard's conception of God permits a rich notion of union with God (another mystical motif). In the fourth chapter, I explain that Works of Love picks up where the pseudonyms left off, and articulates the union with God where such union is at once loving action, for God is love. ^ In the final chapter, I conclude by showing that Kierkegaard has marked structural similarities to mystics such as Eckhart, who is warmly received by the Japanese philosophical tradition, particularly in the writings of its Zen and Pure Land Buddhist representatives. I then go on to show that Kierkegaard's writings are a fruitful source for comparative philosophy of religion, for while Kierkegaardians can also learn from the writings of these Japanese thinkers, Kierkegaard's writings can provide responses to many objections that are commonly leveled against both Kierkegaard's thought in particular and Christian philosophy in general.

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