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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter June 21, 2014

“A Swarm of Laughter!” On Kierkegaard’s Conception of Enthusiasm and Its Comedic Remedy, an Enlightenment Inheritance

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Today the term “enthusiasm” signifies little more than innocuous excitement. During the Enlightenment, however, the term was abuzz with pejorative innuendos of sub-humanity, the many nuances of which were debated in the public sphere. Its significance was more sting than substance, however, and by the middle of the nineteenth century Kierkegaard could complain that the category of enthusiasm had become hopelessly unclear. Despite this, based on The Book on Adler and on three texts in which Kierkegaard uses Socrates as a prototype of enthusiasm, I argue that Kierkegaard’s concept of enthusiasm places him in the lineage of earlier Enlightenment writers, such as Lessing, Shaftesbury, and Kant, whose conceptions and critiques of enthusiasm Kierkegaard was familiar with. By putting Kierkegaard’s use of the comic in The Book on Adler into conversation with Shaftesbury’s and Kant’s comedic remedies for enthusiasm, the extent to which Kierkegaard is an inheritor of and detractor from this tradition becomes evident

Published Online: 2014-6-21
Published in Print: 2014-6-1

© 2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston

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