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date: 28 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This essay explores the intersection of religion and emotion in the thought of Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855). Emotions—or, more generally, affectivity—play a central role in Kierkegaard's analyses of human existence. Coming after German idealism and Romanticism, and giving extraordinary new life to the heritage of pietism, Kierkegaard finds in the affective life of human beings the key disclosures concerning our being-in-the-world. In addition, Kierkegaardian “religion” takes shape in terms of certain affects and virtues that emerge in face of such existential disclosures. This essay examines how Kierkegaard frames the problem of emotion in terms of his understanding of selfhood. In particular, it looks at the way Kierkegaard's phenomenology challenges an understanding that links emotions to judgments (whether cognitive or evaluative). The latter understanding, an inheritance of Aristotle, depends on a classical ontology that privileges determination, measure, presence, and intentionality. For the “classical” tradition, emotions offer thematic content about the world, guide moral reasoning and decision-making, predispose one toward certain virtues or vices, and can be altered by a resolution toward right thinking.

Keywords: Kierkegaard, intentionality, Aristotle, affectivity, human existence, pietism, selfhood, phenomenology, judgments, determination

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