Spiritual trial in Kierkegaard: religious anxiety and Levinas’s other

International Journal of Philosophy and Theology 80 (4-5):495-509 (2019)
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ABSTRACTSpiritual trial is indeed ‘spiritual’ – it is possible only in someone who is not utterly spiritless as Kierkegaard means the word – but it is not true, as Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms occasionally maintain, that it makes sense only as a religious category, unless religious is redefined in radically general terms, as Kierkegaard in fact does, along with the ideas of offense, anxiety, inwardness, and desire. Every existing individual has some minimal acquaintance with spiritual trial, if only as an anxiety about a continual imminent possibility. I argue that spiritual trial, as Kierkegaard and his pseudonyms intend it – although they do not of course put it in these Levinasian terms – is inseparable from a certain phenomenology of the subject that begins with Kierkegaard and that turns spiritual trial into something essential to becoming a self, the result of one’s vulnerability to alterity, one’s anxiety to defend one’s autonomy against the experience of the other as other. Spiritual trial, in Kierkegaard’s strict sense, is therefore best understood as a special form of a very ordinary, basic experience, a kind of primordial trauma, of which Emmanuel Levinas has so far given us the most complete phenomenological description.



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The Concept of Anxiety.Robert L. Perkins - 1985 - Mercer University Press.
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Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence.Emmanuel Levinas & Alphonso Lingis - 1981 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 17 (4):245-246.
Discovering Existence with Husserl.Emmanuel Levinas, Richard A. Cohen & Michael B. Smith - 1998 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 190 (4):532-533.
The Many Faces of Levinas as a Reader of Kierkegaard.Merold Westphal - 2008 - Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 64 (2/4):1141 - 1162.

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