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Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love


  • Date Published: March 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107502543

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About the Authors
  • The problem of whether we should love ourselves - and if so how - has particular resonance within Christian thought and is an important yet underinvestigated theme in the writings of Søren Kierkegaard. In Works of Love, Kierkegaard argues that the friendships and romantic relationships which we typically treasure most are often merely disguised forms of 'selfish' self-love. Yet in this nuanced and subtle account, John Lippitt shows that Kierkegaard also provides valuable resources for responding to the challenge of how we can love ourselves, as well as others. Lippitt relates what it means to love oneself properly to such topics as love of God and neighbour, friendship, romantic love, self-denial and self-sacrifice, trust, hope and forgiveness. The book engages in detail with Works of Love, related Kierkegaard texts and important recent studies, and also addresses a wealth of wider literature in ethics, moral psychology and philosophy of religion.

    • Engages sympathetically but critically with Kierkegaard's Works of Love and related texts
    • The first book on Kierkegaard to focus specifically on proper self-love as part of an overall neighbour-love ethics
    • Relates Kierkegaard's thought to a wider literature in recent and contemporary ethics, moral psychology and philosophy of religion
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is the most important book on Kierkegaard and love to appear since Jamie Ferreira's classic Love's Grateful Striving; in particular, it offers the most detailed treatment available on the notion of proper self-love in Works of Love. This work also brings Kierkegaard directly into current debates in moral psychology regarding love for particular others such as family and friends, and their relation to forms of self-love. The discussions of forgiveness, including self-forgiveness and self-respect, are especially rewarding. Lippitt writes clearly and his analyses will be accessible to readers without a prior speciality in Kierkegaard, including anyone interested in theories of love and various forms of love in their own right - and especially in theological contexts.' John J. Davenport, Fordham University

    'Building on the resources offered by Kierkegaard's Works of Love, John Lippitt adds a crucial voice to contemporary philosophical discussions of love, such as we find in the work of Frankfurt and many others. Readers to whom any mention of self-love brings to mind an objectionable kind of selfishness ought to be persuaded early in Lippitt's argument that the topic cannot be ignored by anyone seeking to understand moral life. Without knowing what it means to love oneself 'in the right way', as Kierkegaard puts it, we can neither interpret nor comply with the imperative to love the neighbor 'as thyself'.' Rick Furtak, Colorado College

    'This is a tightly argued and philosophically well-informed book that draws on a detailed knowledge of Kierkegaard's work and of the relevant secondary literature. As such, it provides a useful point of entry for students and established scholars into the internal complexity of Kierkegaard's moral thought and the issues it addresses. The position it constructively advances is humane, compassionate, and sensible, but also not undemanding … exceptional stimulus to further reading and thinking.' George Pattison, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

    'This book is clearly written and closely argued, and sets a fine example of how to engage Kierkegaard in a critical yet appreciative manner that brings his voice into contemporary discussions that bear centrally on questions about how human life should be lived.' C. Stephen Evans, Baylor University, Texas

    '… offers a detailed examination of Kierkegaard on self-love … The book is lucid, well organized, and carefully attentive to the relevant contemporary literature. It will be an excellent acquisition for all libraries supporting work on Kierkegaard, the nature of love, or the philosophy of religion … Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above.' Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107502543
    • length: 222 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 152 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.33kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: how should I love myself?
    2. Cracking the mirror: friendship and the problem of self-love
    3. Self-love in Works of Love: explicit references
    4. The problem of special relationships: self-love's wider context
    5. Another take on self-love: an excursus on Harry Frankfurt
    6. Love's blank cheques: on self-denial and its limitations
    7. Towards a more positive account of self-love, I: trust and hope
    8. Towards a more positive account of self-love, II: self-forgiveness and self-respect
    9. An immodest proposal: a coda on rehabilitating pride
    10. Summary and conclusion.

  • Author

    John Lippitt, University of Hertfordshire
    John Lippitt is Professor of Ethics and Philosophy of Religion at the University of Hertfordshire. His publications include Humour and Irony in Kierkegaard's Thought (2000) and The Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kierkegaard and Fear and Trembling (2003, 2nd edition forthcoming). Lippitt is editor of Nietzsche's Futures (1999), and co-editor of Nietzsche and the Divine (with Jim Urpeth, 2000) and The Oxford Handbook of Kierkegaard (with George Pattison, 2013).

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