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The Sickness unto Death is one of a few pseudonymous texts designated “psychological” by Kierkegaard: taking this designation seriously, the chapter examines what The Sickness unto Death can contribute to our understanding of moods. A promising approach taken by recent philosophical analyses of depression has focused on the concept of possibility, and has argued that possibilities are typically a feature of the world as experienced by human beings, but that a depressed person feels that possibilities are severely impoverished or utterly absent. Manic and hypomanic states tend toward the opposite extreme, of an overabundance of possibility. This chapter draws upon the resources of existential thought in order to develop an understanding of cyclothymic spectrum conditions, demonstrating how Kierkegaard’s work provides resources for a non-reductive phenomenological psychology of moods.
The book of Ezekiel begins by recounting a colorful vision of divinity, such as the prophet claims to have seen. According to Maimonides, however, this does not refer “to the eye’s seeing” but to “intellectual apprehension,” of the same kind that any of us might use in solving a mathematical problem. Assuming that a genuine prophetic insight could only be an insight into abstract rational truth, Maimonides asserts that this is what Ezekiel must have “beheld,” so to speak. Clearly, the great medieval thinker would agree with William James that “some states of mind are inwardly superior to others, and reveal to us more truth.” However, on his view, it is only through our rational faculty that we comprehend any truths that are worthy of the name. This way of thinking leads Maimonides to conclude that the biblical narrative of Abraham and Isaac is meant to convey “rational ideas” such as those found in the writings of the Greek philosophers. So he argues that Abraham ought to be understood as a vessel of philosophical wisdom, whose “prophetic” insights are epistemically on par with whatever else is “apprehended through … the intellect.” On his view, what it means to be an inspired prophet is to be blessed with abstract knowledge. And Maimonides is adamant that the rational faculty which gives us access to truth is pure of any emotion or passion. At the moment of hearing God’s word, he explains, Abraham was not “in a state of passion” by any means, but employing his capacity for cold, unemotional thought.
According to the Concluding Unscientific Postscript, the scandal of modern philosophy is not that it has attempted unsuccessfully to prove the reality of the objective world, but that it has failed to offer the kind of knowledge that "essentially relates to existence". Søren Kierkegaard's affinity for ancient philosophy is widely recognized. Among Kierkegaard's pseudonymous authors, "Johannes Climacus" is one who seems to be especially preoccupied with this contrast between ancient Greek and modern European philosophy. For instance, Climacus alludes to the Greeks as proof that "inwardness" and "subjectivity" can exist outside of Christianity. He is not trying to change the subject, but he is trying to change the nature of the conversation. The plea for "essential knowing" is nothing other than an attempt to return philosophy, the love of wisdom, to a focus on wisdom as a "form of understanding that unites a reflective attitude and a practical concern".
Søren Kierkegaard's Concluding Unscientific Postscript has provoked a lively variety of divergent interpretations for a century and a half. It has been both celebrated and condemned as the chief inspiration for twentieth-century existential thought, as a subversive parody of philosophical argument, as a critique of mass society, as a forerunner of phenomenology and of postmodern relativism, and as an appeal for a renewal of religious commitment. These 2010 essays written by international Kierkegaard scholars offer a plurality of critical approaches to this fundamental text of existential philosophy. They cover hotly debated topics such as the tension between the Socratic-philosophical and the Christian-religious; the identity and personality of Kierkegaard's pseudonym 'Johannes Climacus'; his conceptions of paradoxical faith and of passionate understanding; his relation to his contemporaries and to some of his more distant predecessors; and, last but not least, his pertinence to our present-day concerns.
Søren Kierkegaard's Concluding Unscientific Postscript, ascribed to a pseudonymous author named “Johannes Climacus,” is the source of the notorious claim that “truth is subjectivity.” That alone has provoked a variety of divergent interpretations of the work as a whole, from the time of its publication in February 1846 until the present day. Yet the Postscript has been both celebrated and condemned under many other descriptions: as the chief inspiration for twentieth-century existential thought, as a subversive parody of philosophical argument, as a prelude to later phenomenology, as a critique of mass society, as a forerunner of postmodern relativism, and as a testimonial for Christianity conceived in either theologically conservative or radically progressive terms. For a book that sold only about fifty copies during the first few years after its publication, it has caused quite a stir in the long run.
The Postscript was regarded by Kierkegaard as a culminating work – although he later came to view it as more of a turning point in his authorship – and, as a result, it resembles a sort of “container into which all of the important ideas he has ever had must be crammed.” Philosophers have appropriated and opposed various claims endorsed in the Postscript, which seems more like a philosophical treatise in form and content than perhaps any other work in Kierkegaard's corpus.