Kierkegaard, Metaphysics and Political Theory: Unfinished Selves


Hardback 174 pages
Publisher Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. (24 May 2009)
Language English
ISBN-10 0826498310
ISBN-13 978-0826498311
Dimensions TBA

This title offers a new reading of the work of Kierkegaard in relation to metaphysics and political theory. Alison Assiter argues that the notion of the person that lies at the heart of the liberal tradition is derived from a Kantian and Cartesian metaphysic. This metaphysic, according to her, is flawed and it permeates a number of aspects of the tradition. Significantly, it excludes certain individuals, those who are labelled 'mad' or 'evil'. Instead, she offers an alternative metaphysical image of the person that is derived largely from the work of Kierkegaard. Assiter argues that there is a strand of Kierkegaard's writing that offers a metaphysical picture that recognises the dependence of people upon one another. He offers a moral outlook, derived from this, that encourages people to 'love' one another. Inspired by Kierkegaard, Assiter goes on to argue that it is useful to focus on needs rather than rights in moral and political thinking and to defend the view that it is important to care about others who may be far removed from each one of us. Furthermore, she argues, it is important that we treat those who are close to us, well.

A remarkable book! Alison Assiter writes with passion and refinement of the history of modern philosophy’s contributions to an understanding of our troubled world. She revives Soren Kierkegaard both as a general philosopher and as a guide to a moral politic that both thinks and feels.
— Charles Lemert, Professor of Sociology, Wesleyan University, USA
Who would have thought that Kierkegaard has interesting things to teach us about politics, of all things? But he has, and Assiter shows us how. More importantly, she also shows us why what he says matters: an impressive achievement!
— Bob Brecher, University of Brighton, UK
Alison Assiter’s new work on Soren Kierkegaard and moral theory is a fine attempt at providing a fresh way of thinking about ethics and human rights without completely abandoning the framework that we already possess. Analysing lines of argument derived from contemporary analytic philosophy and Kantian views of the past, Assiter argues that the standard metaphysical view of a person as a separate-entity-with-rights cannot do justice to our contemporary needs... 
Assiter has written a thoughtful and original work that asks us to think of others in terms developed by Kierkegaard in many of his major works, from Stages on Life’s Way to Philosophical Fragments. As she notes in closing: “Rethinking the starting point of the personal and the political, in the kind of way I have outlined, seems to me to be necessary in our contemporary, conflict-ridden world.
— Jane Duran, University of California, Santa Barbara (THE Review Sep. 09)