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Article

Kierkegaard's Phenomenology of Spirit

European Journal of Philosophy. 2016. Vol. 24. No. 3. P. 629-650.
Carlsson U.

Kierkegaard’s preoccupation with a separation between the ‘inner’ and

the ‘outer’ runs through his work and is widely thought to belong to his rejection

of Hegel’s idealist monism. Focusing on The Concept of Irony and Either/Or, I

argue that although Kierkegaard believes in various metaphysical distinctions

between inside and outside (the inwardness of faith and the outwardness of

ethics and language; the inwardness of emotion and the outwardness of behavior),

he nonetheless understands the task of the philosopher as that of making

outside and inside converge in a representation. Drawing on Hegel’s philosophy

of art, I show that Kierkegaard’s project in both of these books is the aesthetic

project of revealing the inner essence of something in its outward appearance.

Kierkegaard’s portrait of Socrates in The Concept of Irony is a phenomenology of

the spirit of irony. My interpretation adds a new dimension to our understanding

of Kierkegaard’s aesthetics and his relation to Hegel; it presents him as a follower

of Plato, whom he is usually thought to have dismissed; and it uncovers a deep

connection between Kierkegaard’s first two books, which are never read in

conjunction.