Kierkegaard, Paraphrase, and the Unity of Form and Content

Philosophy Today 57 (4):376-387 (2013)
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Abstract
On one standard view, paraphrasing Kierkegaard requires no special literary talent. It demands no particular flair for the poetic. However, Kierkegaard himself rejects this view. He says we cannot paraphrase in a straightforward fashion some of the ideas he expresses in a literary format. To use the words of Johannes Climacus, these ideas defy direct communication. In this paper, I piece together and defend the justification Kierkegaard offers for this position. I trace its origins to concerns raised by Lessing and Mendelssohn about the relationship between form and content in works of art. I maintain that Kierkegaard follows early German Romantic thinkers in applying these aesthetic concerns to philosophical writing. By way of conclusion, I discuss the implications of Kierkegaard’s position for contemporary scholarship.
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2013
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First archival date: 2009-12-06
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