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date: 29 March 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the processes that underlie and unite the concepts of selfhood and the good life: processes of development, appropriation, and acquisition which lead to the formation of a ‘second nature’. It focuses on the nineteenth-century thinkers Félix Ravaisson and Søren Kierkegaard, both of whom made original contributions to Christian thought at a time when their religious traditions were challenged by modern cultural and intellectual development. Ravaisson and Kierkegaard offer contrasting accounts of the good life. For Ravaisson, the Christian life becomes a virtuous ‘second nature’ representing both the cultivation and the embodiment of human freedom. For Kierkegaard, Christianity, and the love that is at its heart, are corrupted by custom or habit, and so can never become second nature. While Ravaisson asserts that ‘love is augmented by its own expressions’, Kierkegaard suggests that ‘love is dissipated in the indifference and lukewarmness of habit’. They thus formulate different concepts of repetition and accounts of how grace is appropriated. For both thinkers, these are the movements through which selfhood is constituted and through which the good life is lived.

Keywords: selfhood, second nature, Félix Ravaisson, Søren Kierkegaard, Christian thought, Christian life, human freedom, Christianity, love, habit

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