The problem of Kierkegaard's socrates

Res Philosophica (4):555-579 (2017)
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Abstract

This essay re-examines Kierkegaard's view of Socrates. I consider the problem that arises from Kierkegaard's appeal to Socrates as an exemplar for irony. The problem is that he also appears to think that, as an exemplar for irony, Socrates cannot be represented. And part of the problem is the paradox of self-reference that immediately arises from trying to represent x as unrepresentable. On the solution I propose, Kierkegaard does not hold that, as an exemplar for irony, Socrates is in no way representable. Rather, he holds that, as an exemplar for irony, Socrates cannot be represented in a purely disinterested way. I show how, in The Concept of Irony, Kierkegaard makes use of 'limiting cases' of representation in order to bring Socrates into view as one who defies purely disinterested representation. I also show how this approach to Socrates connects up with Kierkegaard's more general interest in the problem of ethical exemplarity, where the problem is how ethical exemplars can be given as such, that is, in such a way that purely disinterested contemplation is not the appropriate response to them.

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Daniel Watts
University of Essex

Citations of this work

Kierkegaard, Repetition and Ethical Constancy.Daniel Watts - 2017 - Philosophical Investigations 40 (4):414-439.
Valuing humanity: Kierkegaardian worries about Korsgaardian transcendental arguments.Daniel Watts & Robert Stern - 2019 - International Journal of Philosophy and Theology 80 (4-5):424-442.
Practical irony: Reflections on a theme in the work of Jonathan Lear.Simon Thornton - 2021 - European Journal of Philosophy 30 (2):840-853.

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References found in this work

Philosophical Investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1953 - New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Blackwell. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe.
Philosophical investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein & G. E. M. Anscombe - 1953 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 161:124-124.
The Blue and Brown Books.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1958 - Philosophy 34 (131):367-368.
Beyond the Limits of Thought.Graham Priest - 1995 - Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

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