The relation between Hegel and Kierkegaard
McLaughlin, Wayman Bernard
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1. The Problem of the Dissertation The problem of the dissertation is to determine the nature of Kierkegaard's relation to Hegel in areas of agreements and differences. This investigation attempts to penetrate beneath Kierkegaard's polemical writings to the basis of his philosophy. The central contention is that Hegel exerted a formative influence upon Kierkegaard. 2. The Method of Study The method of the dissertation is threefold: historical, comparative, and critical. The historical-comparative-critical method, as used in this study, involves the following principles: 1) to give an account of Hegel's and Kierkegaard's views of their historical predecessors, of their systems, and of their influences on some contemporary trends of thought; 2) to compare the two respective systems in terms of both similarities and differences; 3) to criticize Kierkegaard's view in light of Hegel's philosophy. 3. A Final Summary Kierkegaard's relation to Hegel has been shown to be twofold: First, Kierkegaard uses Hegel's terminology and meanings in the development of his own thought as well as in his critique of Hegel. Thus Kierkegaard's relation to Hegel is always paradoxical; that is, the Danish philosopher uses at the same tine Hegelian and anti-Hegelian views. Secondly, Kierkegaard's philosophy lacks the comprehensiveness of Hegel's, yet there are some essential points on which the thinkers agree. Oftentimes the agreement suggests a profound influence of Hegel on Kierkegaard. However, even on basic points of agreement, Kierkegaard's use of Hegelianism is not free from vast differences and hesitancies. The following statements are the outstanding conclusions of this study: 1. Hegel and Kierkegaard share in common a dialectical methodology. In Kierkegaard's denial of smooth transition from one stage to another there is opposition to Hegel's view. But there is at times a counter-tendency in Kierkegaard's attitude to affirm smooth transitions in agreement with Hegel's position. 2. Like Kierkegaard, Hegel is also an existential thinker, since both thinkers write nothing of significance that is not filled with emphasis upon participation, feeling and involvement. Hegel was not unaware of existence as Kierkegaard seemed to believe. 3. Like Hegel, Kierkegaard considers life to be dynamic, and spiritual. Perhaps Kierkegaard is an ethical idealist, as Hegel is an absolute idealist. 4. Kierkegaard, along with Hegel, maintains that the abstract is the unreal. Kierkegaard is not fair to Hegel's system in making it the acme of abstraction. 5. Some aspects of Hegel's religious thought, especially his early theological writings and his view of subjective religion, are close to Kierkegaard's position. 6. Kierkegaard, opposing Hegel's over-emphasis upon essence, affirms the priority of existence over essence. 7. The following basic criticisms by Kierkegaard of Hegel's system have been Shown to be not totally justified: 1) Kierkegaard is anti-metaphysical, and opposes Hegel's identification of being and thought, since it makes for pure abstraction. 2) Kierkegaard is anti-historical, and attacks speculative thought which imports necessity into the historical process. 3) Kierkegaard is antisystematic, and criticizes the systematic tendency of Hegelianism, since an existential system is impossible. The central weakness in most of Kierkegaard's criticisms of Hegel is that Kierkegaard misses the empirical side of the latter. 8. Both Hegelian and Kierkegaardian concepts are found in the salient conflicts in pragmatism, realism, post-Kierkegaardian existentialism, and idealism.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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