Potential Role of Art in Kierkegaard’s Description of the Individual

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Kierkegaard scholarship has generally focused on either existential or religious issues, interpreting Kierkegaard’s understanding of the individual’s relationship to itself and to the Christian God. As a result of his description of the stages of development of the individual in the process of that relationship, such scholarship has consistently ignored the inherent potential to articulate an aesthetic system which would describe art as a means of facilitating the development in a positive direction.

This book offers the first thorough description of a Kierkegaardian aesthetic which does not demote art to a merely sensuous and negative influence; it is an explication of the specific feature of Kierkegaard’s description of the individual (such as communication, repetition, and the self) within the context of a positive notion of art, as well as an analysis of art itself, the artist, and the fundamental value of art as a profitable means of influencing the individuals. While this book is unique for placing art into a central role within Kierkegaard scholarship, it also remains critical of such a role, maintaining the importance of recognizing the limitations which art has. The final result is that art emerges as a means of communication which urges the individual on towards a better relationship with the actual, as represented by the Christian god, but which also finds its fullest value in its inadequacy in the confrontation with the ideal.


“One thing surely absent from many of today’s debates around art, both at the theoretical and practical levels, is some means of realigning notions of authorship and selfhood with the work of art itself. Kierkegaard’s approach offers one such proposition, and even if we may feel that times have radically changed and not all the pieces of Kierkegaard’s philosophical model are to our taste or understanding, his provocative picture of the impossible possibility of the aesthetic as expounded by Scott Koterbay, gives us a much needed theoretical, critical and ultimately pragmatic insight into problems that require, in our own time, to be urgently and most assiduously addressed’ – (From the Commendatory Preface) Peter Suchin, Art Critic and Artist

“Dr. Koterbay’s book….is a fascinating journey to and through the notion that – embedded in Kierkegaard’s writings – there does exist a unified and cogent set of arguments, which address the concept of an art object…..Dr. Koterbay astutely guides us through primary and secondary literature so that we may clearly see how these clues are to be understood in the context of all the ambiguity which surrounds Kierkegaard…..this book is a bold experiment in new form of interdisciplinary research, which is much needed in an age of over specialization…..I am delighted to recommend it to all who are looking for new avenues to amble in the analysis of art.” – Dr. Cliff McMahon, The University of Texas of the Permian Basin

“The subject matter discussed in this text is, in an of itself, worthy of the analysis which Koterbay has undertaken. It is of considerable interest to art historians, critics and philosophers alike, at once for its own sake as an underestimated theorization of experience and also for Koterbay’s rehabilitation of this philosophy as a potential means of approaching highly contested questions relating to the aesthetic, the art object and the artist….Koterbay’s argument is clear and strong, underpinned as it is with an unusually complete knowledge and understanding of the intricacies of Kierkegaard’s writings…..whilst this book is definitely a work of scholarship and not designed for those without familiarity with philosophical analysis, its language and structure render it highly transparent for anyone approaching Kierkegaard’s thinking for the first time.” – Dr. Simeon Hunter, Loyola University New Orleans

“This study makes a highly original contribution to the understanding of the developmental stages of being an artist, the limits of art as a medium, and the “death” of art on the postmodern scene.” – Michael Schwatz, PhD, Augusta State University

Table of Contents

1. The Self in Fichte and Kierkegaard
2. Contradictions and Dialectics; Existence and Actuality
3. Object and Subject
4. Repetition, Redoubling, and Reduplication
5. Direct and Indirect Communication
6. The Actuality of the Artist as an Individual
7. Approaches to a Kierkegaardian Aesthetics
8. The Art Object
9. Conclusion: The Death of Art

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