Volume 90, Issue 4, October 2013
Kierkegaard on Rationality
Jennifer Ryan Lockhart
Kierkegaard's Indirect Communication of Kant's Existential Moment
This paper distinguishes between two rationalist readings of Either/Or: (1) the Rational Argument Interpretation, according to which the aim of the book is ultimately to offer a rational argument in favor of living ethically, and (2) the Rational Presupposition Interpretation, according to which the pseudonymous authors presuppose that it is rational to live ethically. The paper argues in favor of (2). In particular, it argues that the fundamental presuppositions of Either/Or are those of Kant’s moral philosophy and rational religion. At the heart of Kant’s arguments for the practical postulates lies an “existential moment”: Kant’s practical arguments are subjectively valid in virtue of the personal decision of the individual to do his duty. According to the Rational Presupposition Interpretation advanced here, Either/Or is best understood as an attempt to communicate indirectly and to confront the reader with the significance of personal choice for inhabiting a hopeful moral life-view.