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The Ontology of the Self

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Abstract

One reason Johannes Climacus has received relatively scant attention in Kierkegaard Studies has been its obvious brevity and schematic nature. As a treatment of the structure of consciousness, it is at once both full of resonance with other Kierkegaardian texts and tantalizingly incomplete. Johannes Climacus marks Kierkegaard’s only substantial attempt to map out an ontology of consciousness as such. However, later in his writings, Kierkegaard does develop a sustained and complex account of the ontology of the self, most notably in The Sickness Unto Death and, to a lesser extent, in The Concept of Anxiety. These two works of depth psychology delve into specific psychological pathologies — respectively, Despair (Fortvivelse) and Anxiety (Angest) — and find these to be driven by structural features of the human self. Despair in particular turns out to be a ‘sickness’ that goes deeper than the merely dispositional level on which modern empirical psychology operates. Its occurrence expresses an underlying dysfunction on an ontological level, one that can in fact occur with no discernible psychological symptoms. (We saw above that Kierkegaard’s psychology is, at heart, a‘clinical’ one. Here, however, we can see the limits of that assessment, for what sense could empirical clinical psychology make of the notion of a completely asymptomatic mental illness?)

Keywords

  • Polar Opposite
  • Psychological Phenomenon
  • Schematic Nature
  • Ontological Level
  • Depth Psychology

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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  • DOI: 10.1057/9780230251267_5
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© 2010 Patrick Stokes

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Stokes, P. (2010). The Ontology of the Self. In: Kierkegaard’s Mirrors. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230251267_5

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