On the Lived Theology Reading List: Philosopher of the Heart

Philosopher of the Heart: The Restless Life of Søren Kierkegaard, by Clare CarlisleThe Restless Life of Søren Kierkegaard

Søren Kierkegaard is often regarded as the founder of existentialism, writing about his new philosophy for almost a decade in the 1840s and 1850s until he died in 1855 at the age of 42. In Philosopher of the Heart, author Clare Carlisle writes this biography as far from Kierkegaard’s original perspective as she can in order to convey what it was like actually being this Socrates of Christendom—as he put it, living life forwards yet only understanding it backwards.

Kierkegaard was an incredibly prolific author, and much of his creativity sprang from his relationship with the young woman whom he promised to marry, despite the fact that he left her before marriage in order to devote himself to writing. While living alone in Copenhagen, much of his writing centered around pursuing the question of existence, as well as exploring the possibilities of Christianity and confronting the failures of its institutional manifestation around him. When he finally died exhausted, he left his remarkable writings to his muse and erstwhile fiancée.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Engrossing . . . Carlisle has pulled off the feat of writing a truly Kierkegaardian biography of Kierkegaard. Just as Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous writings were meant to enable the reader to understand different modes of existence from the inside, Carlisle’s biography takes us inside Kierkegaard’s troubled, complicated life, portraying a man who both compels and repels in turn.” —Julian Baggini, Financial Times

“For those interested in Kierkegaard’s legacy, but bewildered by the sheer volume of his writings, Carlisle opens a compact but insightful gateway onto his work, one designed to entrance as well as inform. For those of us who have been reading the man long enough to forget why we began, Carlisle offers a bracing reminder of the human drama, the passionate conviction, that drew us to Kierkegaard in the first place.” —Asher Gelzer-Govatos, The Russell Kirk Center

“It is a testimony to [Carlisle’s] skill that, as in a great novel, the portrayal of her protagonist is so vivid . . . She wonderfully conveys how, pelican-like, Kierkegaard tore his philosophy from his own breast.” —Jane O’Grady, Daily Telegraph

For more information on the publication, click here.

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