“The present age is essentially… devoid of passion, flaring up in superficial, short-lived enthusiasm and prudentially relaxing in indolence.… [W]e must say of the present age that it is going badly.” Kierkegaard, from “The Present Age,” in Two Ages
This special issue of The European Legacy, to be published in 2013, is dedicated to celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Kierkegaard (1813-1855) by posing two questions: first, the relevance of his thought for, and the challenge that he directs to, the single individual in the present age; second, the challenge that the present age directs to the thought of Kierkegaard. In light of these questions, it is worth recalling Kierkegaard’s conception both of the present age and of the single individual. For Kierkegaard, because all generations share the same task, each age, and each individual in each age, is like every other in that they must take upon themselves, singularly and distinctly, the tasks of their time. The present age thus encompasses the history in which single individuals respond to the issues and debates that distinguish their time by establishing as its most fundamental priority what Kierkegaard calls, in Fear and Trembling, the essentially human – what he also calls faith, love, the neighbor, God: the absolute relation to the absolute. Yet, according to Kierkegaard, the present age and the single individual are characterized by their already having shunned their essentially human task, by their being divided against themselves, alienated from themselves, in their superficiality and indolence. The present age, for Kierkegaard, is thus an age of despair in which the single individual who goes badly must engage in what he describes as the task of coming historically into existence as the genuine contemporary – the task of loving God and neighbor.
How, then, do we assess the pertinence today of Kierkegaard’s assessment of and prescription for the present age – both his own and ours? From what standpoint do we even pose the question of the relevance of Kierkegaard at year two hundred? In asking about the ways in which Kierkegaard’s thought challenges us today, must we not also ask about the ways in which, or the principles in light of which, we respond to Kierkegaard? At issue is what it would mean, today, to be a genuine contemporary – of Kierkegaard, of the present age, of ourselves.
For this special issue of The European Legacy we invite contributions on a wide range of issues that examine the implications of Kierkegaard’s thought for debates, issues, and questions that are central to the challenge of the single individual in the present age. Topics might include, but are not limited to, the following:
· the relationship between Kierkegaard’s critique of the present age and contemporary critics of the present age;
· the relationship between Kierkegaard’s concept of single individuality and contemporary questions of pluralism, cosmopolitanism, and globalization;
· the relationship between, on the one hand, what Kierkegaard explicates as Christian ideals, concepts, and values, and, for example, on the other hand, deconstructive, postmodern, feminist, and LGBTQ approaches to the problems of the present age;
· the relationship between the religious and the secular, between the divine and the human, between faith and reason;
· the relationship between ethics and divine command;
· the relationship between art and the indirect communications of the religious imagination;
· the relationship between truth as subjectivity and truth as alterity.
Proposals of one single-spaced page in length should be submitted either to Mark Cauchi (email@example.com) or to Av