On Being Sidetracked by the Aesthetic: Kierkegaard’s Practical Paradox

  • Richard H. Bell


The difficulty that Kierkegaard presents us with in his remark about St Paul is a personally troubling one.1 The very fact that I am here engaged in a philosophical discussion on the ‘aesthetic’ is a case of being sidetracked by the aesthetic. Moreover, most of the talk at philosophy conferences is little more than what O. K. Bouwsma has called ‘grammatical aberrations’2 to make us look ‘intellectually respectable’. Our particular aberrations are themselves aesthetic exercises of a second order. And yet we are told by Kierkegaard that, if we want to be religious, we must set aside or leave behind the aesthetic.


Ordinary Language Christian Concept Aesthetic Concept Recognisable Language Edify Discourse 
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  1. 2.
    I borrow this concept from O. K. Bouwsma’s ‘Kierkegaard’s “The Monstrous Illusion”’, in J. Craft and Ronald E. Hustwit (eds), Without Proof or Evidence: Essays in O. K. Bouwsma (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1984) p. 77.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    My summary of Augustine’s account of language is indebted to Rowan Williams, ‘Language, Reality and Desire in Augustine’s De Doctrina’ in Journal of Literature and Theology, 3, no. 2 (July 1989) 148.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1992

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  • Richard H. Bell

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