Lecture 2:3 Kierkegaard, Martensen and Hegelianism

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Kierkegaard’s understanding of Socrates was of course based on his reading of the texts of Plato, Xenophon and Aristophanes, that is, the primary sources. But it was also largely shaped by the interpretation of the famous German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel, with whom he was in a constant critical dialogue in The Concept of Irony. Hegel’s philosophy was a highly popular trend at the University of Copenhagen in the late 1830s when Kierkegaard was a student and was writing this work. So this week explores first the presence of Hegel at the university during Kierkegaard’s time, and then Hegel’s analysis of Socrates. This provides the opportunity to revisit and build on the key topics that were introduced in the first lecture: Socratic irony, aporia, the daimon, etc. It is shown how Kierkegaard is inspired and influenced by the important historical role that Hegel ascribes to the person of Socrates. This week also continues the biographical narrative of the young Kierkegaard. It sketches his life as a young student at the University of Copenhagen and his trip to Gilleleje, where he wrote the famous journal entry about seeking a truth for which to live and die. This provides the opportunity to introduce the figure of Hans Lassen Martensen, who was a lifelong rival for Kierkegaard and an important figure in the Danish reception of Hegel’s philosophy.

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