The Inverse Dialectic of Jest and Earnestness in Kierkegaard’s Theology


Sylvia Walsh, "The Inverse Dialectic of Jest and Earnestness in Kierkegaard’s Theology," Participatio Supplemental Volume 5: "Søren Kierkegaard as a Christian, Incarnational Theologian" (2019): 224-240


Walsh, Sylvia. "The Inverse Dialectic of Jest and Earnestness in Kierkegaard’s Theology.Participatio Supplemental Volume 5: "Søren Kierkegaard as a Christian, Incarnational Theologian" (2019): 224-240


According to Kierkegaard’s Christian pseudonym Anti-Climacus, “[t]he first condition for becoming a Christian is to become unconditionally turned inward” in earnestness (Alvor), which is a major concept in Kierkegaard’s writings that is synonymous to certitude, inwardness, subjectivity, and faith in signifying the constituent of the eternal in a human being. Declining to define or talk about earnestness in “the jest of abstraction,” the pseudonym Vigilius Haufniensis associates it with disposition, not in the sense of a natural disposition or habit but as an “acquired originality,” the object of which is always oneself, namely what it means to exist spiritually as a self, spirit, or concrete personality, and whoever lacks earnestness in that regard, Vigilius observes, is a “joker” (Spøgefugl), no matter how serious one may be about other things. Jest (Spøg) is nevertheless a very important concept without which we cannot properly understand earnestness and the relation of human freedom and striving to the eternal and grace in Kierkegaard’s theology. Speaking in the voice of the pseudonym Johannes Climacus, Kierkegaard suggests that it is impossible to understand earnestness if one does not understand jest and that it is important to understand in jest what jest is. Both jest and earnestness are among the most frequently used terms in Kierkegaard’s authorship, yet jest has been given very little attention in studies of his thought. In an effort to give jest its due — or at least to move jestingly in that direction — this essay proposes to consider what jest is for Kierkegaard and how it informs his understanding of earnestness in a dialectical manner....

Søren Kierkegaard as a Christian, Incarnational Theologian

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