Kierkegaard and Freedom

About this Conference

Location: Madingley Hall, University of Cambridge

Date: 3-5 July 1998

Organizer: Dr James Giles (Rosklide University)

Conference Theme

The nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Sören Kierkegaard stands apart from his contemporaries as an original thinker whose radical approach to philosophy set him outside the traditions of his time, someone whose prolific writings are only recently becoming understood. One of Kierkegaard's most significant contributions is his approach to the problem of freedom. His reaction against German idealism and his views on truth as subjectivity, the existing individual, and what he called inwardness, led him to completely reframe the problem of free will. Yet for all his innovativeness, his account of freedom has been largely ignored by modern English-speaking philosophers. Many factors probably account for this, including Kierkegaard's way of presenting his ideas on freedom in the context of other discussions, his refusal to systematize his philosophy, his literary method, and his unique relation to his historical context. It seems however that there is much the current debate on the problem of free will could gain by a consideration of Kierkegaard's ideas. With this aim in mind the conference explored Kierkegaard's views on freedom in an historical, critical, and exegetical way by relating them both to the views of Kierkegaard's contemporaries and to present-day discussions on such topics as libertarianism, determinism and indeterminism, compatibilism, agent causation theory, the philosophy of action, and theories of responsibility. In this way it was hoped that Kierkegaard's contributions to the problem of free will would begin to enter the present dialogue.


  • Michael Weston (Essex) - Kierkegaard: The Literature on Freedom
  • David Campbell (Glasgow) - Kierkegaard, Free Will, and Self-interpretation
  • George Pattison (Cambridge) - Sublimity and the Experience of Freedom
  • James Giles (Roskilde) - Anxiety and Entangled Freedom
  • Begonya Saez Tajafuerce (Barcelona) - Seduce me and Set me Free?
  • Paul A. Bauer (Copenhagen) - Freedom, Motion, and the Self
  • Antony Rudd (Bristol) - Perspectives on Freedom: Theoretical and Existential
  • D. Z. Phillips (Swansea) - Freedom and Self-deception in Purity of Heart
  • Jörg Disse (Lucerne) - Autonomy in Either/Or
  • Peter Rogers (Lancaster) - Indirect Communication: Training in Freedom?

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