Kierkegaard: Responsibility to the Other.

Smith, Graham M. (2007) Kierkegaard: Responsibility to the Other. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 10 (2). pp. 181-197. ISSN 1369-8230

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Given his attention to the existential elements of our existence, it is not surprising that Søren Kierkegaard offers us an account of friendship. Like much of Kierkegaard's thought, the account is insightful, rigorous and uncompromising. Kierkegaard entertains the idea of friendship, because those who have theorised and praised this form of sociality promote it as a forum in which a genuine and ethical concern with the other can be fostered. In this sense, friendship can be considered an 'alternative' response to the other. Kierkegaard challenges this understanding. What is particularly striking about his reconstruction and criticisms of the traditional account of friendship is that he finds it deficient not only by the light of his own Christian viewpoint; he also finds friendship deficient when judged from the perspective of its own self-proclaimed ethical foundations. Thus, Kierkegaard concludes that the reciprocity involved in friendship actually betrays its essential selfishness. In considering Kierkegaard's account of friendship this article argues that his criticisms make serious difficulties for the traditional concept stretching back to the Ancients. The article also argues that Kierkegaard's alternative, 'neighbourliness', is constructed in such a way as to be insufficiently grounded in human sociality and perhaps comes to represent an empty formalism towards the other. It concludes that whilst Kierkegaard's thought opens up a space for a sociality based on the responsibility to others, Kierkegaard fails to occupy this space. Despite this failure, Kierkegaard sets the task for any future theorisation of friendship as a centre for responsibility towards self and others.

Item Type:
Journal Article
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Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
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RAE_import_type : Journal article RAE_uoa_type : Politics and International Studies
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25 Mar 2008 13:40
Last Modified:
18 Sep 2023 00:15