Kresten Lundsgaard-Leth (Bio)

For the Love of God? On Hägglund’s misunderstanding of Fear and Trembling

Martin Hägglund’s opus from 2019, This Life, has had quite an impact on the philosophy world (and beyond). Building on his previous work, Hägglund advocates a radical secularism that rejects all religious faith and all philosophical striving for transcendence as – in the end – meaningless attempts to rid ourselves of the very conditions of existential meaning whatsoever, namely: the caring relationships to concrete others as these play out under the fragile conditions of complete finitude. In his central chapter on “Responsibility”, Hägglund explicitly criticizes Kierkegaard’s model of faith in Fear and Trembling as a paradigmatic example of the kind of position he revokes. Over and against Hägglund’s critical reading of Kierkegaard, I wish to put forth – and also argue for – two basic claims: Firstly, Hägglund – for a number of reasons – simply misunderstands Kierkegaard’s position wherefore his critique of Fear and Trembling is mostly pretty wide of the mark. Secondly, a better understanding of Kierkegaard’s text actually enables us to see some problematic issues in Hägglund’s own position.