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The Existential Enlightenment: An Introduction to Søren Kierkegaard

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From the rationalism of the Enlightenment to the dark freedom of Existentialism, there is a hidden path, passing through the abyss of human depravity into a new, scientifically rigorous psychology of the human self.

Often attacked or celebrated for his supposed irrationalism and attack on the Enlightenment, Kierkegaard is in fact the truest inheritor of the Enlightenment’s core values, for he shows how a commitment to rigorous rationality and human progress must confront the paradoxical essence of human existence.

The struggle of Enlightenment humanism to face the problem of evil, particularly after the Lisbon Earthquake, led to the immense yet unstable achievements of Immanuel Kant, who recognized a defect in human’s relationship to their own rationality. Seeking to uphold the sovereignty of Reason while preserving the insights of religion and morality, the contested inheritance of the Kantian legacy gave birth to German Idealism.

Situating Kierkegaard in the context of the Enlightenment, German Idealism, and the abyssal anthropology of Martin Luther, this course offers a detailed historical and philosophical introduction to Kierkegaard’s core ideas. Combining historical rigor with a strong focus on the existential and contemporary relevance of Kierkegaard, it is an ideal introduction for new and experienced students of Kierkegaard. The Existential Enlightenment offers insight into the meaning of history, the fate of religion, and the role of despair in human liberation, showing how the project of Existentialism and the Enlightenment meet in the path of Søren Kierkegaard.

Part I: Kierkegaard’s Context

1. The Enlightenment as a Civilizational Crisis

2. Christianity and Enlightenment

3. The Second Immanuel: Kant and German Idealism

4. The Shadows of the Cross: Luther’s Existential Influence on Kierkegaard

Part II: Leaping over Lessing’s Ditch: The Struggle for Historical Meaning

5. History and Existence: Lessing’s Ditch

6. The End of Miracles? Truths of Reason and Facts of History

7. Johannes Climacus and the Absolute Paradox

8. The Moment and the Eternal

Part III: The Self: Psychology and Transformation in The Sickness Unto Death

9. Point of No Return

10. The Unconscious Sickness

11. The Self as a Synthesis

12. Despair and Freedom: The Establishing Power of Existence


Ⓒ The Existential Enlightenment: An Introduction to Søren Kierkegaard is copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form or used without permission.
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