Living in Uncertainty: Kierkegaard and Possibility

Living in Uncertainty: Kierkegaard and Possibility
12 September 2019, 12.30pm - 14 September 2019, 6.00pm
Conference / Symposium
Woburn Suite, G22/26, Ground Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Invited Speakers:

Iben Damgaard (Copenhagen)
Joakim Garff (Copenhagen)
John Lippitt (Hertfordshire & Deakin) 
Rick Anthony Furtak (Colorado)

‘Ethically understood, if anything is able to stir up a person, it is possibility...’ (Concluding Unscientific Postscript)
‘When someone faints, people shout for water, eau-de-cologne, Hoffman’s drops. But for someone who is on the point of despair it is: get me possibility, get me possibility, the only thing that can save me is possibility.’ (Sickness Unto Death)

The term ‘possibility’ (Mulighed) and its variants occur with curious frequency across Kierkegaard’s writings. Key to Kierkegaard’s ontology of the self, possibility is linked to imagination, anxiety, temporality, transition, the moment, and a number of other core ideas in his works.  The term is also central to Kierkegaard’s critique of Hegelian actuality, in which the underlying questions seem to be: What does freedom have to do with history? How is change possible? What does it mean to begin?

This conference will explore themes of living in uncertainty, ontological or phenomenological structures of possibility, and the possibility of radical change or conversion in Kierkegaard’s work. 
Kierkegaard offers a rich account of how anxiety, as the lived experience of possibility, opens us to a new horizon while showing us the contingency and fragility of the systems and identities we presently inhabit. In our time of political uncertainty as well as a seemingly intractable global capitalism, Kierkegaard’s work on radical possibility seems more relevant than ever. 

Programme (Draft subject to change):

Thursday 12 September

12:30 Welcome and coffee

13:00 Rick Furtak (Colorado College, US): ‘Despair and the Phenomenology of Possibility’
Kresten Lundsgaard-Leth (University of Aalborg, Denmark): ‘The Evolution of Possibility in Kierkegaard’s Thought’

14:30 Coffee

14:45 Iben Damgaard (University of Copenhagen): ‘On Hope and Seriousness’
Erin Plunkett (University of Hertfordshire, UK): ‘Kierkegaard’s Poetics of the Possible’

16:15 Hjördis Becker-Lindenthal (Cambridge University, UK): ‘How to Cooperate with Possibility: Kierkegaard on Detachment, Imagination, and Hope’ 
John Lippitt (University of Hertfordshire, UK): ‘‘Beyond possibility? Expectancy and substantial hope in the task of forgiveness’

18:00 Evening reception at the Danish Embassy (by invitation only; conference speakers)
55 Sloane Street, London, SW1X 9SR

Friday 13 Sept 

9:00 Welcome and coffee

9:30 Claudine Davidshofer (High Point University, US): ‘Kierkegaard’s Rethinking of Hegel’s Modal Categories’
Jakub Marek (Charles University, Prague): ‘On Being Educated by Possibility in Kierkegaard’s Concept of Anxiety’
Atsuya Matoba (Kyoto University, Japan): ‘Possibility and Human Love in Works of Love’

11:30 Coffee

11:45 Giuditta Corbella (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan): ‘Kierkegaard in Heidegger's recently published Anmerkungen zu Sein und Zeit
Eleanor Helms (California Polytechnic, US): ‘Kierkegaard´s Metaphysics: A Defence of Abstract Possibilities’

13:15 Lunch

14:30 Daniel Conway (Texas A&M, US): ‘Defiance: The Death of Possibility and the Rise of Dark Authenticity’ 
Hugh Pyper (Sheffield University, UK): ‘Who Then Can Be Saved?’ 
Anna Westin (Boston College, US): ‘Kierkegaard’s Possibility in an Age of Environmental Anxiety’

16:15 Coffee

16:30 Robert Reed (Boston College, US): ‘Spiritual Trial in Kierkegaard: Religious Anxiety and Levinas’s Other’
Vanessa Rumble (Boston College, US): ‘Subjects of contention: Voices of Good and Evil in Kierkegaard’s Spiritual Exercises’ 

18:00 Close – Optional Drinks Locally (at own expense)

Saturday 14 Sept 

10:00 Joakim Garff (University of Copenhagen): ‘On Aesthetic and Religious Illusions’
Antony Aumann (Northern Michigan University, US): ‘Personal Ideals and the Dangerous Power of Art’
Ruth Signer (Université de Genève, Switzerland): ‘To Luxuriate in Possibility: Kierkegaard and the Potential of Literature’ 

11:45 Coffee

12:00 Jeff Hanson (Harvard University, US): ‘From Possibility to Actuality and Back Again: Kierkegaard’s Ontology of the Possible and the Actually Ideal’
Eskil Elling (PhD, Northwestern University, US): ‘Mood, Morality, and Modality: The constitutive dilemma of the aesthetic in Kant and Kierkegaard’

13:30 Lunch

14:30 Tatiana Badurová (Charles University, Prague) ‘Kierkegaard’s Abraham or the Possibility of the Gift’ 
Frances Maughan-Brown (College of the Holy Cross, US): ‘Possibility and Prototype: On Kierkegaard’s Uncertain Patterns’

16:00 Coffee

16:15 Mélissa Fox-Muraton (ESC Clermont/Université Clermont Auvergne, France): ‘Kierkegaard and Beauvoir on uncertainty, freedom, and equality’
Sebastian Hüsch (Aix-Marseille Université, France): ‘Truth as a possibility: meaningful existence between metaphysics and experience’

17:45 Close of conference

Download Programme

Online registration required by Thursday 5 September. Flat rate for 2½ day conference:
Standard conference ticket £55
Student and unwaged conference ticket £35
Speaker ticket £55

The conference is generously supported by the Danish Embassy of London, the Kierkegaard Society of the UK and the University of Hertfordshire.


Jenny Stubbs
020 7862 8832