Understanding Kierkegaard’s Johannes Climacus in the Postscript

In Niels Jørgen Cappelørn, Hermann Deuser & K. Brian Söderquist (eds.), Kierkegaard Studies Yearbook. de Gruyter. pp. 424-440 (2007)
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In this paper I take issue with James Conant’s claim that Johannes Climacus seeks to engage his reader in the Postscript by himself enacting the confusions to which he thinks his reader is prone. I contend that Conant’s way of reading the Postscript fosters a hermeneutic of suspicion that leads him (and those who follow his approach) to be unduly suspicious of some of Climacus’ philosophical activity. I argue that instead of serving as a mirror of his reader’s faults, Climacus is better conceived of as a Socratic figure whose own philosophical activity represents a positive alternative to the Hegelian style of doing philosophy that is under attack in the Postscript. I close the paper by arguing that Climacus adopts two very different experimental stances in his two books: while in Fragments Climacus adopts the stance of someone who has “forgotten” about Christianity, in the Postscript he openly declares that he is not a Christian and then proceeds to investigate the question, appropriately cast in the first person, “How do I,Johannes Climacus, become a Christian?” I maintain that we will not be in a position to appreciate what makes the Postscript a profound work of philosophy until we obtain a better understanding of the various respects in which Climacus is a Socratic figure.
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