Philosopher of the Heart (Hardcover)

The Restless Life of Søren Kierkegaard

By Clare Carlisle

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374231187, 368pp.

Publication Date: May 5, 2020

List Price: 28.00*
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Description

Philosopher of the Heart is the groundbreaking biography of renowned existentialist Søren Kierkegaard’s life and creativity, and a searching exploration of how to be a human being in the world.

Søren Kierkegaard is one of the most passionate and challenging of all modern philosophers, and is often regarded as the founder of existentialism. Over about a decade in the 1840s and 1850s, writings poured from his pen pursuing the question of existence—how to be a human being in the world?—while exploring the possibilities of Christianity and confronting the failures of its institutional manifestation around him.

Much of his creativity sprang from his relationship with the young woman whom he promised to marry, then left to devote himself to writing, a relationship which remained decisive for the rest of his life. He deliberately lived in the swim of human life in Copenhagen, but alone, and died exhausted in 1855 at the age of 42, bequeathing his remarkable writings to his erstwhile fiancée.

Clare Carlisle’s innovative and moving biography writes Kierkegaard’s life as far as possible from his own perspective, to convey what it was like actually being this Socrates of Christendom—as he put it, living life forwards yet only understanding it backwards.



About the Author

Clare Carlisle is Reader in Philosophy and Theology at King’s College London. She is a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement and has written dozens of articles on philosophy for The Guardian. Her book, On Habit, was named an Outstanding Academic Title of 2014 by Choice, and she has recently edited George Eliot’s translation of Spinoza’s Ethics. She grew up in Manchester, studied philosophy and theology at Cambridge, and now lives in Hackney.


Praise For Philosopher of the Heart: The Restless Life of Søren Kierkegaard

"[Carlisle] judiciously mines Kierkegaard's works and considerable scholarship to elucidate the philosopher's life, mind, and struggles . . . A perceptive portrait of an enigmatic thinker." —Kirkus

“Carlisle writes with verve and sympathy . . . this lucid and riveting new biography at once rescues Kierkegaard from the scholars and makes it abundantly clear why he is such an intriguing and useful figure.” —Adam Philips, Observer

Philosopher of the Heart enacts Kierkegaard’s audacity and verve . . . in a thrillingly inward and intimate style . . . unashamedly subjective, lyrical, impassioned and impatient with the buttoned-up, life-denying formality of conventional philosophy – conventional biography too, for that matter. Those qualities make her study of this ironic, ecstatic and anguished outsider a deep pleasure . . . Carlisle sketches the social and intellectual backdrop to [Kierkegaard’s] dozen years of intensive ‘authorship’ with flair and insight.” —Boyd Tonkin, The Arts Desk

“Engrossing . . . Carlisle has pulled off the feat of writing a truly Kierkegaardian biography of Kierkegaard. Just as Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous writings were meant to enable the reader to understand different modes of existence from the inside, Carlisle’s biography takes us inside Kierkegaard’s troubled, complicated life, portraying a man who both compels and repels in turn.” —Julian Baggini, Financial Times

“It is a testimony to [Carlisle’s] skill that, as in a great novel, the portrayal of her protagonist is so vivid . . . She wonderfully conveys how, pelican-like, Kierkegaard tore his philosophy from his own breast.” —Jane O’Grady, Daily Telegraph

“Clare Carlisle’s biography of Kierkegaard is impressively well researched, and brings its subject vividly alive . . . Carlisle provides us with lucid, perceptive accounts of Kierkegaard’s writings, which make stringent intellectual demands on the reader. She is illuminating about some of the rather obscure scholars who influenced his work, and valuably explores his relations with Romanticism.” —Terry Eagleton, London Review of Books

“This is an innovative and significant book written by one of the leading authorities on Kierkegaard today . . . exactly as Kierkegaard would have wished." —Peter Vardy, Church Times

“Clare Carlisle’s Philosopher of the Heart is one of the best biographies of modern masters by a new generation of women scholars.” —Daniel Johnson, Standpoint

“Carlisle’s imaginative structure and lucid prose are not the only refreshing things about this philosophical biography . . . One of Carlisle’s achievements in Philosopher of the Heart is to communicate Kierkegaard’s universal appeal and relevance, while always attending to the Christian particularity of his self-understanding and worldview. The Kierkegaard of Philosopher of the Heart may not be the Kierkegaard that some readers are expecting or hoping to encounter in its pages, but he is a Kierkegaard that is all the more authentic and radical for this.” —Ruby Guyatt, Review 31

“Clare Carlisle’s biography of Kierkegaard experiments with tradition and does something new – as befits the kind of philosopher she is writing about . . . A litmus test for an intellectual biography like Philosopher of the Heart is to ask whether it will motivate readers who are not familiar with Kierkegaard and his philosophy to read his work. The answer is a resounding yes. [Carlisle] provides lucid summaries of his main works and conveys the relevance of his thought for modern audiences.” —Sean Sheehan, The Prisma

“Insightful . . . Clare Carlisle clearly knows her subject inside and out . . .Carlisle has an impressive grasp of what makes her subject tick. We feel as though we are right there with Kierkegaard as he frets about how he is perceived, and then frets some more that he’s prone to such vanity. [She] deftly fleshes out the world that Kierkegaard occupied. Most intriguingly, his tussles with his literary rivals — such as a major literary beef with Hans Christian Andersen – are brought vividly to life.” ?—Rory Kiberd, The Business Post