Kierkegaard on Love

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One of the most provocative analyses of love ever produced is to be found in the writings of the Danish Existential philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. In a book entitled Works of Love, he proposed a theory which deliberately upset every leading idea that his own age liked to entertain about this hallowed concept.
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“One of the most provocative analyses of love ever produced is to be found in the writings of the Danish Existential philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. In a book entitled Works of Love, published in Copenhagen in 1847, Kierkegaard — then thirty-four years old — proposed a theory which deliberately upset every leading idea that his own age (in this respect very similar to our own) liked to entertain about this hallowed concept.

First and most importantly, Kierkegaard insisted that most of us have no idea what love is — even though we refer to the term incessantly. The first half of the nineteenth century in Europe saw the triumph of what we today call ‘Romantic love’, involving a veneration and worship of one very special person with whose soul and body we hope to unite our own…”

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Produced in collaboration with:

Reflective Films
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One of the most provocative analyses of love ever produced is to be found in the writings of the Danish Existential philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. In a book entitled Works of Love, published in Copenhagen in 1847, Kierkegaard — then thirty-four years old — proposed a theory which deliberately upset every leading idea that his own age (in this respect very similar to our own) liked to entertain about this hallowed concept.

First and most importantly, Kierkegaard insisted that most of us have no idea what love is — even though we refer to the term incessantly. The first half of the nineteenth century in Europe saw the triumph of what we today call ‘Romantic love’, involving a veneration and worship of one very special person with whose soul and body we hope to unite our own.

Kierkegaard insisted that through concentrating on Romantic love, we develop a narrow and impoverished sense of what love can actually be.

Love is not, Kierkegaard insisted, the special excitement we feel when in the presence of someone unusually beautiful, pure, clever or accomplished. He proposed that we return instead to an exacting version of Christian love, which commands us to love everyone, starting — most arduously — with all those who we by instinct consider to be unworthy of love.

He made a distinction between what in Danish is termed kaerlighed — true love, the kind Christians are commanded to give and elskov — erotic love.

For Kierkegaard, we should learn to love all the many people it would be so tempting to curse and to hate; those whom we believe are mistaken, ugly, irritating, venal, wrong-headed or ridiculous; those who may have made some truly serious mistakes and offended our moral codes. To learn to love such people, to practise kaerlighed, this is the real accomplishment — and the summit of our humanity….https://bit.ly/3yNFBW8

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