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Title page for ETD etd-03242016-145018

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Kline, Peter
URN etd-03242016-145018
Title Passion for Nothing: Kierkegaard's Apophatic Theology
Degree PhD
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
William Franke Committee Chair
David Wood Committee Member
Ellen Armour Committee Member
Laurel Schneider Committee Member
  • negative theology
  • apophasis
  • mysticism
  • Kierkegaard
  • Jean-Luc Nancy
Date of Defense 2016-03-23
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation offers a reading of Kierkegaard as an apophatic author. I argue that his apophaticism is at heart an ethical-religious problematic, one that concerns itself with the “whylessness” of existence. Existence in relation to the absolute is “without why,” without articulable telos or ground. This is a theme that Kierkegaard inherits from the philosophical and theological traditions stemming from Meister Eckhart. I explore Kierkegaard’s apophaticism with reference to five themes: indirect communication, God, faith, hope, and love. At the heart of each of these themes is the movement of “infinite reduplication,” which is the apophatic principle-beyond-principle of Kierkegaard’s authorship. Kierkegaard lets thought and existence become doubled on its instant of beginning, which is the instant of being-given or coming into existence. Such a reduplicated beginning withdraws from the possibility of its speculative reinscription into objectivity. The absolute is the absolute opening of existence without ground, without telos, without why. Such apophatic whylessness de-forms the movements of thought and existence, deflecting both off the path toward conclusions, results, and objective articulation. “Indirect communication” is the name for Kierkegaard’s de-flected, de-formed writing. “Faith, hope, and love” are the names for the de-flected, de-formed living that such writing aims to open for its reader.

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