The Thought Experimenting Qualities of Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling

Religions 10 (6) (2019)
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In this article, I examine the possible thought experimenting qualities of Soren Kierkegaard's novel Fear and Trembling and in which way it can be explanatory. Kierkegaard's preference for pseudonyms, indirect communication, Socratic interrogation, and performativity are identified as features that provide the narrative with its thought experimenting quality. It is also proposed that this literary fiction functions as a Socratic-theological thought experiment due to its influences from both philosophy and theology. In addition, I suggest three functional levels of the fictional narrative that, in different ways, influence its possible explanatory force. As a theoretical background for the investigation, two accounts of literary cognitivism are explored: Noel Carroll's Argument Account and Catherine Elgin's Exemplification Account. In relation to Carroll's proposal, I conclude that Fear and Trembling develops a philosophical argumentation that is dependent on the reader's own existential contribution. In relation to Elgin's thought, the relation between truth and explanatory force is acknowledged. At the end of the article, I argue that it is more accurate to see the explanatory force of Fear and Trembling in relation to its exploratory function.

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Ingrid Malm Lindberg
Uppsala University (PhD)


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