Kierkegaard's Dancing Tax Collector: Faith, Finitude, and Silence

Kierkegaard's Dancing Tax Collector: Faith, Finitude, and Silence

by Sheridan Hough


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Kierkegaard's account of the life of faith turns on an astonishing claim: a person living faithfully continually enjoys, and takes part in, everything. What can this assertion actually mean? The pseudonymous author of Fear and Trembling, Johannes de silentio, imagines what such a human being might look like; indeed, as de silentio puts it, "He looks just like a tax collector." This seemingly ordinary person, in his "movements" of faith, finds infinite significance and an absorbing joy in his environment, from moment to moment. How does he do it? This characterization of faithful comportment is unique in the Kierkegaardian corpus, and becomes the tantalizing centerpiece of an exploration of the Kierkegaardian self.

Sheridan Hough embarks on a groundbreaking "existential/ phenomenological" investigation of the uncanny abilities of the faithful life through an analysis of Kierkegaard's "spheres of existence"; each sphere reveals a specific kind of significance, and indeed a way of "being in the world." Hough employs a distinctively original narrative voice, one that examines Kierkegaard's ontology from the perspective of his pseudonymous voices, and from the characters that they create. This approach is both descriptive and diagnostic: by understanding what someone living out an aesthetic, ethical, or a religious existence seeks to achieve, the phenomenon of the faithful life, and its demands, comes into sharper focus. This faith is not simply some thought about God's greatness-indeed, the "propositional content" of faith is a central issue of the book. Instead, Hough argues that Kierkegaardian faith is the hallmark of the fullest flowering of a human life, one achieved in ways only hinted at in the demeanor of the cheerful and enigmatic "tax collector," an existential task in which "temporality, finitude is what it is all about."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780198739999
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 10/20/2015
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Sheridan Hough is Professor of Philosophy at the College of Charleston.

Table of Contents

1. Breathless Confessional Prelude: How and Why I fell in Love with the Tax Collector
2. 1st Movement: The Aduton of Selfhood
3. 2nd Movement: Choosing Pleasure
4. 3rd Movement: The Pleasures of Choice
5. 4th Movement: Tax Collector vs. Tax Collector
6. (In)conclusive Postlude: The Absolute Distinction Between Propositional Beliefs and Walking (or Dancing)
7. Coda: All You Need Is...
8. A First and Last Explanation

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