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Res Philosophica

Volume 90, Issue 4, October 2013

Kierkegaard on Rationality

Jason Kido Lopez
Pages 589-607
DOI: 10.11612/resphil.2013.90.4.8

Kierkegaard's View of Despair
Paradoxical Psychology and Spiritual Therapy

Though many hold Søren Kierkegaard’s The Sickness unto Death contains psychological descriptions of those who suffer from despair, I will argue that this is not so. Kierkegaard makes three claims—the conjunction of which I call ‘the triple reduction’—that take contradictory stances on whether people in despair are aware of their despair and whether they want to be their true self. Indeed, if the triple reduction were true, people in despair would be both aware and unaware of their despair, and would both want and not want to be their true self. Unless we want to attribute to Kierkegaard this paradoxical psychological view of the despairer, then we must, I will argue, read Sickness not as a work that answers the question of what is happening in the mind of someone in despair. Instead, it is a therapeutic work meant to help its readers out of despair.

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