It’s a New Year and time to resurrect philosophy Friday. Maybe not every Friday mind you, but many of them. In the past I had previously just posted videos with sparse comments (see here for instance). Now I’d like to actually do some philosophizing (with and without a hammer), as well as post about some philosophy books I’ve read or am reading. We’ll kick it off with a recent bio of Kierkegaard which pairs nicely with another book on him I’d recommend (this one).
First off, thanks to Zondervan for not only sending me a copy of Stephen Backhouse’s Kiekegaard: A Single Life, but also the sweet tote as well! I wasn’t able to make it to ETS and so missed out on coming by the Zondervan booth and perhaps getting the tote that way. I should probably use the tote to cart books around, but I’m pretty committed to using my biceps to curl a stack.
As far as Backhouse’s book though, I enjoyed it over coffee for a couple mornings before finishing it with zest. While each chapter moves more or less chronologically through Kierkegaard’s life, they each highlight a different theme. Kierkegaard is a complex figure, if you weren’t aware. And even if you were, it doesn’t change that there’s much to uncover in the mystery of his life.
I am by no means a Kierkegaard scholar. I just find him intriguing and have general grasp of some of his major ideas. Backhouse’s book helps you learn about Kierkegaard the man, and in turn helps you better understand Kierkegaard the philosopher. Though I read Mark Tietjen’s book first, I would recommend reading both of these in reverse order. They overlap at places but are ultimately complimentary to one another. Backhouse’s book doesn’t avoid dealing with themes in Kierkegaard’s writing, but they are not the focal point. By contrast, that is Tietjen’s focal point as he is trying to introduce Kierkegaard’s thought to new readers.
After reading both books, I think Kierkegaard represents a philosopher that evangelicals ought to pay a bit more attention to in coming years. That of course is different than saying “adopt uncritically.” But, it seems that much of what Kierkegaard was against in the Danish church has found its way into many American evangelical churches. One need only look at this book list to see what I might mean. By learning more about Kierkegaard’s life and context, I think we are better able to adopt his posture in some regards, without making some of the mistakes he made (and maybe avoiding pseudonyms altogether). In that light, take and read this great intro to Kierkegaard.