From Jena to Copenhagen: Kierkegaard's Relations to German Idealism

Autonomy is the theme of the modern age. We are free only when we are the author of our own conditions and rules. Anything less is an arbitrary imposition and a threat to selfhood. Where did this idea come from? Immanuel Kant was its great exponent, and we are all Kantians now. German Idealism is the movement that developed from Kant's revolution, and Kierkegaard, so often associated exclusively with Existentialism, was one of its deepest critics. He sought to explore what it means to be a self in a way that acknowledged the reality of givenness while also upholding the power of human freedom and the ever-dynamic journey that is selfhood. This article explains the hardest yet most important passage about the self in Kierkegaard's work by placing it in its proper context: German Idealism and Romanticism, and the revolution of modern freedom to which we are all heirs.

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