Denying and Becoming: A Defense of Kierkegaard’s Works of Love

  • Laura Howard


A perennial concern with Kierkegaard’s Works of Love is that its condemnation of preferential love is incoherent, inhibits the proper formation of self and of special relationships (i.e. friendships, romantic relationships), or both. In this essay, I argue that (1) Kierkegaard coherently rejects selfishness while allowing for and encouraging special relationships to exist, and (2) understanding love as a double movement (like that of faith described in Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling) is essential to understanding this basic claim. This essay thus draws upon and goes beyond previous analyses of Kierkegaard’s work, demonstrating how the double movement can be used to understand neighbor love as all at once selfless, involving the kind of preference necessary for special relationships, and positively forming the one who loves her neighbor.

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