[OPE-L] article on Kierkegaard

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Wed Apr 19 2006 - 13:53:30 EDT

Usually we remember important philosophers because they - rightly or
wrongly - pioneered insights into the human condition which are of enduring
value - why not admit many people have a "Kierkegaardian moment" at some
point in their lives?

Usually when WSWS writes off a thinker, I'm inclined to think it's worth
having a closer look at that thinker, since the critique usually amounts to
not much more than the idea that the thinker failed to be a Marxist (yawn) -
whereas a much more important concern for historical materialists is to
explain how a thinker arrived at his ideas, and why they may still have a
current resonance in public affairs.

Can't say I am much of a fan of either Heidegger, Nietzsche or Kierkegaard,
but there's no denying that they extended philosophical thought about the
human condition in novel ways, and if they're still read today, this implies
they offered some insights into human experience which still "strike a
chord". And it's important to know why. Whatever you might say about
Kierkegaard's more reactionary ideas (e.g. his distrust of the mass action -
highlighted, of course, by WSWS), he was at least a pretty radical,
independent thinker rising above dull conformism, and engaging with the
ruling ideas of his time, including battles with Hans Christian Andersen.

It may be comforting to believe that, as WSWS claims,

"It was Lenin who aptly observed that the two camps into which philosophy
resolved after Hegel were not only philosophical camps, but ideological and
political camps as well-that the two opposing theoretical perspectives
reflected the ongoing war between two opposed classes."

But in the real world, most times things are not so clearcut, and to the
great frustration of the sectarian, there are a plurality of "camps" which
cannot easily be reduced or polarised into a neat chessboard opposition,
without forcing caricatures and amalgams of positions that in reality
reflect a variety of different concerns (think, for example, of GW Bush's
crude political theory about the "axis of evil"). The "two camps" theory
equates class conflicts with class struggles, but that is a big analytical

Maybe even my favourite "Kierkegaardism" might shed some light on the famous
"transformation problem":

"Life must be understood backwards; but... it must be lived forward."

Which is not altogether unlike Hegel's reference to the "owl of Minerva".


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