Feminist Readings of Kierkegaard
MetadataShow full item record
While the works of Soren Kierkegaard provide us with an insightful analysis of human selfhood within modernity, there remains a certain amount of ambiguity regarding the status of women within his authorship. Primarily, feminist reinterpretations of Kierkegaard' s writing have focused either on his seemingly irretrievable misogyny or, more favorably, on the possibility of Kierkegaard elaborating upon an androgynous ideal of selfhood. I want to argue that both approaches are misinformed. I want to argue against the notion that 'androgyny' could be a feminist ideal of selfhood at all, and also, that no conception of androgyny is one that even Kierkegaard would accept. Ifwe are to address the question of how an engagement with Kierkegaard's authorship can inform us as feminist philosophers, our approach must be broader in scope. I will introduce the notion ofthe "defining relation," as it is seen throughout Kierkegaard's authorship as a whole, but most importantly within his religious ideal of selfhood. My analysis will involve an illicit secularization of this concept, ultimately framing the "defining relation" in terms of a radical openness to the otherness of the other. The defining relation can be understood as a secular or worldly form of faith insofar as the existence of particular others is regarded as absolute or somehow constituting my very identity. In placing primary importance upon the defining relation, Kierkegaard' s model of selfhood undermines the illusion of the autonomous self or the self-imposed identity, favoring instead a depiction of the self that involves a paradoxical self-sufficient dependency upon others. This notion of the defining relation can bear significant implications for a feminist conceptualization of the self.