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Adler and the Ethical: A Study of Kierkegaard's On Authority and Revelation

  • Ronald Hustwit (a1)


In the second of his three prefaces to On Authority and Revelation, Kierkegaard writes: ‘“My reader”, may I simply beg you to read this book, for it is important for my main effort, wherefore I am minded to recommend it’ The question I will put to myself to begin my reflections on the book is: why should Kierkegaard recommend it so strongly? What is Kierkegaard doing in this book? One notices in his recommendation that it is addressed to his reader who, presumably, is not simply the reader of this book but the reader of his other books as well. The Concluding UnscientUc Postscript was being published about the same time (1846), and so the reader may well have been familiar with most of Kierkegaard's main philosophical works. The recommendation then is set in this context. The book is, on the face of it, so unlike the other works, concerned with certain odd claims to a revelation by a Danish pastor named Adler. Much of the book discusses the details of a deposition of Adler given to the local bishop and some details of later defences which Adler gave of his revelation in several works and sermons. It appears to be a local squabble of no general interest and certainly not the sort of thing that had occupied Kierkegaard's philosophical attention to this point. The book, then, stands in need of a recommendation to Kierkegaard's reader who is not otherwise prepared for this genre. But the recommendation does not say, ‘Try this, though quite different, you may like it.’ It says rather that the reader should read it, and later he adds read it carefully, because it is ‘important for my main effort’. So the book is to be seen as of a piece with the other main works of Kierkegaard. This is what I should like to understand in the following discussion: how is this book important for Kierkegaard's main effort?



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page 331 note 1 Kierkegaard, S⊘ren, On Authority and Revelation, trans. Lowrie, Walter (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. IV.

page 331 note 2 Ibid. p. liii.

page 332 note 1 Ibid. pp. 5–9.

page 333 note 1 Ibid. p. li.

page 335 note 1 Ibid. p. 38.

page 343 note 1 Ibid. p. 5–9.

page 347 note 1 Ibid. p. lvii.


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