CFP: Kierkegaard, Literature, and the Philosophy of Religion

The 13th Annual University of Essex International Graduate Conference in Philosophy is to be held on 15th May 2010.


Call for papers

‘[T]here can be no general issue of the significance of life which must be resolved in order to give the guidelines for the individual’s life. To raise the question of life’s significance is always something done by an individual. There is no ‘truth’ here apart from its being lived by individuals: to say a certain view of life is ‘true’ is to adopt it, see one’s life in its terms, whether to try to live it or feel guilt at one’s failure to do so. It is to take it as the measure for one’s life.’

Philosophy, Literature and the Human Good

The imperative ‘Become who you are’ figures centrally in philosophical and literary writings of the 19th and 20th century. It at once expresses the deeply experienced anxieties and joys of modern life as well as the challenges specific to leading an authentic life. A constellation of problems invariably arises when one endeavours to consider the proper scope and limitations of this imperative. Appropriately, ‘Become who you are’ invites a range of reflections in the traditional disciplines of philosophy, and almost by necessity investigations into theology, religion, literature, and elsewhere. Perhaps more than anyone, Søren Kierkegaard explored the intersections of those domains in response to this demand. How is one able to lead an authentic life in a modern world; from where is one to receive existential or moral orientation in a secular society? How does an individual ‘Become who one is’? We invite responses to this demand as it pertains to Kierkegaard, literature and the philosophy of religion.

Possible questions and topics include, but are not limited to:

  • What is the metaphysics of kinesis, transformation and becoming?
  • Can virtue be taught?
  • Do we have to believe before we can understand?
  • How does an individual engage with parabolic writings or poetry?
  • What does grace mean for philosophy?
  • How does one become a Christian?
  • How is it that people claim that a book quite literally changed their lives?
  • Can the personal be reconciled with the universal?
  • The irrational and absurd in religion and literature.
  • What is the literary and philosophical significance of naïve or potentially deceptive narration?
  • How is it that literature, be it sacred or secular, can have anything to say at all?
  • How can the ethical be conveyed without dogmatism or didacticism?
  • Philosophers as authors (e.g. Augustine, Pascal, Rousseau, Nietzsche).
  • What is the importance of moods in philosophical and religious literature?
  • The later rediscovery of Kierkegaard’s writing by Heidegger, Wittgenstein and others?

We are particularly keen to accept papers relating the interests of a long-serving member of staff, Mike Weston, who will be retiring at the end of the year. He is the author of Morality and the Self (1975), Kierkegaard and Modern Continental Thought (1994), Philosophy, Literature and the Human Good (2001). We are happy to consider abstracts from postgraduates, but are also willing to accept submissions from junior research fellows and lecturers.

Keynote Speakers:

Stephen Mulhall, University of Oxford and Michael McGhee, University of Liverpool.

Final papers should be suitable for a 20-minute presentation (2000-2500 words in length), which will be followed by a discussion. The Department of Philosophy may be able to offer invited speakers limited financial assistance toward the cost of travel. For enquiries, please e-mail the organisers at

Abstracts of 500 words in length should be sent by 31st January 2010 to or in duplicate by post to:

Graduate Conference 2010, Department of Philosophy, University of Essex, Colchester, CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom

The conference website contains all of this information, and can be found at

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