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A critical comparison of William James and Søren Kierkegaard on religious belief

A critical comparison of William James and Søren Kierkegaard on religious belief
A critical comparison of William James and Søren Kierkegaard on religious belief
This thesis is a critical comparison of the accounts of religious belief proposed by
William James and Søren Kierkegaard. Both James and Kierkegaard greatly emphasize
the subjective aspects of religious belief. In view of this fact, surprisingly little
comparative work has been done in this area. I contribute to this literature in two ways.
Firstly, I make a brief assessment of what James knew of Kierkegaard’s work.
Secondly, I draw four comparisons between Kierkegaard and James. In Chapter One I
examine the claim that Kierkegaard proposes a pragmatist account of faith of the kind
that James sets out in his essay The Will To Believe. I argue that this claim rests on a
misunderstanding of Kierkegaard’s argument that to have faith is to take a risk. In the
following chapter I discuss James’s and Kierkegaard’s views on formal proofs for the
existence of God. Both philosophers reject the notion that faith can be based on such
proofs. I distinguish between their positions, and argue in favour of Kierkegaard’s. In
the third chapter I compare Kierkegaard’s and James’s accounts of religious experience.
James views religious experiences as a special kind of evidence for the existence of
God. For Kierkegaard it is a mistake to view religious experiences as evidence. Such
experiences should be understood in relation to the concept of religious authority. In the
final chapter I examine Kierkegaard’s conception of faith as a life-view. I argue that for
Kierkegaard a life-view is a fundamental perspective on one’s existence. I compare this
conception with James’s concept of philosophical temperament and in relation to his
discussion of the sick soul.
Chipp, Jonathan
04b34e9f-cafc-4437-a589-05e17be85f14
Chipp, Jonathan
04b34e9f-cafc-4437-a589-05e17be85f14
Schoenbaumsfeld, Genia
586652b5-20da-47cf-9719-4fc587dfa4e8

Chipp, Jonathan (2009) A critical comparison of William James and Søren Kierkegaard on religious belief. University of Southampton, School of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis, 173pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This thesis is a critical comparison of the accounts of religious belief proposed by
William James and Søren Kierkegaard. Both James and Kierkegaard greatly emphasize
the subjective aspects of religious belief. In view of this fact, surprisingly little
comparative work has been done in this area. I contribute to this literature in two ways.
Firstly, I make a brief assessment of what James knew of Kierkegaard’s work.
Secondly, I draw four comparisons between Kierkegaard and James. In Chapter One I
examine the claim that Kierkegaard proposes a pragmatist account of faith of the kind
that James sets out in his essay The Will To Believe. I argue that this claim rests on a
misunderstanding of Kierkegaard’s argument that to have faith is to take a risk. In the
following chapter I discuss James’s and Kierkegaard’s views on formal proofs for the
existence of God. Both philosophers reject the notion that faith can be based on such
proofs. I distinguish between their positions, and argue in favour of Kierkegaard’s. In
the third chapter I compare Kierkegaard’s and James’s accounts of religious experience.
James views religious experiences as a special kind of evidence for the existence of
God. For Kierkegaard it is a mistake to view religious experiences as evidence. Such
experiences should be understood in relation to the concept of religious authority. In the
final chapter I examine Kierkegaard’s conception of faith as a life-view. I argue that for
Kierkegaard a life-view is a fundamental perspective on one’s existence. I compare this
conception with James’s concept of philosophical temperament and in relation to his
discussion of the sick soul.

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Published date: September 2009
Organisations: University of Southampton

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 169893
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/169893
PURE UUID: d63dedeb-c6e2-462e-bd63-9518c38a3513

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Date deposited: 23 Dec 2010 14:36
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 12:18

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Contributors

Author: Jonathan Chipp
Thesis advisor: Genia Schoenbaumsfeld

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