M.G. Piety

Archive for February, 2014|Monthly archive page

New Book on Kierkegaard and Rationality

In Once Upon a Time in Denmark, Publishing News on February 24, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Paradoxical Rationality of Kierkegaard (cover) I received a review a couple of days ago of a new book entitled The Paradoxical Rationality of Søren Kierkegaard. The book is by Richard McCombs. The review, by Antony Aumann, appeared in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. I haven’t read the book yet, so I won’t say much about it here. I will share only a few comments on the review. First, Aumann takes McCombs to task for neglecting the secondary literature. I have to say, however, that on my view, that is a fairly minor flaw in a book on this topic. There is some good work on Kierkegaard and rationality (particularly in the volume Kierkegaard after MacIntyre), but there isn’t much that is addressed specifically to this topic. A great deal of what C. Stephen Evans writes touches on the topic of Kierkegaard and rationality, but strangely, Aumann does not fault McCombs for neglecting Evans’ work, but for neglecting, among others, the work of Louis Pojman.

What I would like to see referenced in scholarly treatments of the topic of Kierkegaard and rationality is some German language work. There is simply nothing comparable in comprehensiveness and theoretical rigor to Anton Hügli’s Die Erkenntnis der Subjektivität und die Objektivität des Erkennens bei Søren Kierkegaard (Editio Academica, 1973) and Das Problem des Interesses und die Philosophie Sören Kierkegaards (Karl Alber, 1983). Both these works should be required reading for anyone interested in either Kierkegaard’s epistemology or his position on the nature of human rationality. I quote liberally from both works in Ways of Knowing: Kierkegaard’s Pluralist Epistemology, so you can get some idea of the content of each there. Hopefully, those little tastes will whet your appetite to the extent that you will be willing to struggle through the originals.

Neither, alas, is available as an ebook. Fortunately, McCombs book is available as an ebook. I’ve already downloaded it because I learned from Aumann’s review that the book contains an entire chapter on Kierkegaard’s epistemology. I’m going to get started on the book right away and will post my thoughts on it as soon as I am able to give them coherent form.

In other publishing news, Oxford has come out with a new volume entitled The Oxford Handbook of Kierkegaard. I presume, from the mixed bag of contributors, that it is intended primarily for non-specialists. In typical Oxford fashion, however, at $112 it is priced beyond the means of its intended audience. Scholars will occasionally pay approximately $100 for a book, but non-specialists rarely will. I fear this volume is destined to languish unread on library shelves. That need not have been the case in that Oxford has thoughtfully made it available in a Kindle edition. Unfortunately, they have thoughtlessly priced even that edition out of the reach of nearly everyone but libraries. Most ebooks are substantially cheaper than their physical counterparts for obvious reasons. The Kindle edition of this book, however, is $85. One can only hope Oxford will soon see the error of its ways and reduce that price.

Speaking of how much scholars will pay for books, I have a funny story to relate. I used to order books occasionally from the German book import store in Copenhagen when I lived there. I had heard the theologian Joachim Ringleben speak at some conference or other and had been very impressed by him, so I ordered his book Aneignung: Die Spekulativ Theologie Sören Kierkegaards. When I went to pick up the book, however, the man to whom I was to give my money, opened the inside cover to learn the price and simply burst out laughing. He laughed so hard it was some time before he could calm down sufficiently to process the sale. Even then he kept shaking his head and smiling.

Fortunately, the Kindle version of McCombs book is only $24.49. Thank you Indiana University Press!

Danish Art

In Once Upon a Time in Denmark on February 5, 2014 at 9:24 pm

140-2  A kind reader wrote to me yesterday to inquire why I had not posted anything to this blog in January. He said he enjoyed the blog and that he hoped I was not ill, or anything. I’ve not been ill (well, okay, I have been ill, for only for about a week). I’ve just been very busy. I’m teaching online this term and that actually takes more time than conventional teaching. I’ve also been finishing a book. It’s not a book on Kierkegaard. It’s a book on figure skating entitled Sequins and Scandals: Reflections on Figure Skating, Culture, and the Philosophy of Sport. So it is a philosophy of sport book, sort of. It’s actually a collection of many different pieces that I had published on skating over the years, as well as a few new pieces. It was mostly written already, but it did take some time to put together.

I am also finishing an article on Kierkegaard for a volume Oxford is doing on “theological epistemology” and I am editing the bibliography and writing an introduction to the forthcoming English translation of Martin Slotty’s book on Kierkegaard’s epistemology. Yes, I have been very busy. In between these projects, however, I have been doing a little Ebay shopping.

One of the things that was hardest for me about leaving Denmark was that it meant I could no longer spend my spare time haunting Danish junk stores looking for fine old paintings. That was how I used to relax when I lived in Copenhagen. Sometimes, when I had been working for many days without leaving the apartment (I can actually go a long time without seeing other people because I am kind of a recluse), I would just head out to one of the local junk stores. What most people outside Denmark don’t realize is that Danes suffer from an inferiority complex relative to the rest of Europe. Den danske mindreværdskompleks it’s called (literally “the Danish less-worth complex”). Legions of Danes appear to have taken up a serious study of painting since the turn of the century, but since relatively few of them became internationally famous, no one wants their paintings. Danes buy up these domestically produced works of art when the artists are young in the hope that these artists will become famous. But of course most of them never do, so when older Danes die, their heirs generally do not want these paintings, so they end up being carted off by the local junk dealer. Every junk store in Copenhagen is filthy with them, floor to ceiling. When I lived there I could often pick up a beautiful old painting from the first half of the century in a heavy guilt frame for under $100.

Over time, I gradually accumulated about fifty such paintings. Unfortunately, I could not take them all with me when I left Copenhagen. I still have plenty of paintings, so you should not feel sorry for me. I miss the trips to the junk stores though. Or did, until a couple of weeks ago when I discovered that there are some very nice Danish paintings available on Ebay! Yes, that’s right–Ebay. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any for under $100, but I’ve found some really beautiful ones in an Ebay store called Art-Gate from between $200-$500, which is really very good for an original oil painting in a beautiful old frame. 140-5

None of these paintings date from Kierkegaard’s time. They are mostly from the first half of the twentieth century. Many are stereotypical Danish landscapes, though, that will mean a lot to scholars who have spent time studying in Denmark. There are some nice interiors and still lifes as well, and all at very reasonable prices. In fact, Art-Gate invites people to make offers for the paintings, so you could easily end up paying even less than the official asking price. It’s not quite so much fun as combing through the junk stores yourself, but at least you won’t have to do the packing and shipping!

I’ll be back soon with more news!