Socratic ironies: reading Hadot, reading Kierkegaard

Sharpe, Matthew 2016, Socratic ironies: reading Hadot, reading Kierkegaard, Sophia, vol. 55, no. 3, pp. 409-435, doi: 10.1007/s11841-016-0512-6.

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Title Socratic ironies: reading Hadot, reading Kierkegaard
Author(s) Sharpe, MatthewORCID iD for Sharpe, Matthew
Journal name Sophia
Volume number 55
Issue number 3
Start page 409
End page 435
Total pages 27
Publisher Springer
Place of publication Dordrecht, The Netherlands
Publication date 2016-09
ISSN 0038-1527
Keyword(s) Kierkegaard
Summary This paper examines the seemingly unlikely rapport between the ‘Christian existentialist’, radically Protestant thinker, Søren Kierkegaard and French classicist and historian of philosophy, Pierre Hadot, famous for advocating a return to the ancient pagan sense of philosophy as a way of life. Despite decisive differences we stress in our concluding remarks, we argue that the conception of philosophy in Hadot as a way of life shares decisive features with Kierkegaard’s understanding of the true ‘religious’ life: as something demanding existential engagement from its proponent, as well as the learning or recitation of accepted doctrines. The mediating figure between the two authors, the paper agrees with Irina (2012), is Socrates and his famous irony. In order to appreciate Kierkegaard’s rapport with Hadot, then (and in contrast to Gregor, who has also treated the two figures) we first of all consider Hadot’s treatment of the enigmatic ‘old wise man’ who remains central to Kierkegaard’s entire authorship. (Part 1) However, to highlight Hadot’s Socratic proximity to Kierkegaard (in contrast to Irina), we set up Hadot’s Socrates against the contrasting portrait readers can find in John M. Cooper’s recent work on Socrates and philosophy as a way of life. Part II of the essay turns back from Hadot’s and Kierkegaard’s Socrates towards Hadot’s own work, and argues—again moving beyond both Gregor and Irina’s works on Hadot and Kierkegaard—that the shape of Hadot’s ‘authorship’, including his remarkably classical style, can be understood by way of Kierkegaard’s notion of indirect communication. In our concluding remarks, in the spirit of Kierkegaard, we pinpoint the fundamental difference between the two thinkers, arguing that for Hadot in contrast to Kierkegaard, a stress on existential commitment in no way speaks against the philosophical defence of a form of rational universalism. Reading Hadot via Kierkegaard allows us to appreciate Hadot’s novelty as attempting to ‘squaring the circle’ between an emphasis on subjectivity and, as it were, the subjective dimensions of philosophers’ pursuit of rational universality.
Language eng
DOI 10.1007/s11841-016-0512-6
Field of Research 220210 History of Philosophy
2203 Philosophy
2204 Religion And Religious Studies
Socio Economic Objective 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Grant ID DP140101981
Copyright notice ©2016, Springer
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