Soren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855), a religious Christian and the father of existentialist philosophy and theology, and Emmanuel Levinas (1906 – 1996), an Orthodox Jew who is widely regarded as one of the most important ethical philosophers of the 20th century, are compared, contrasted, and sometimes criticized in this generally interesting volume of scholarly essays. In technical philosophical language, the essays consider some of the similarities and differences between Kierkegaard and Levinas’ philosophy of religion, dealing with such themes as love and transcendence, time, alterity (otherness) and eschatology (the soul’s relationship to death, judgment, heaven, and hell), obligation/responsibility, and subjectivity. The main limitation of this anthology is the introduction, for it does not adequately contextualize each theorist in the history of ideas and provide a straightforward, let alone compelling comparison of the thinkers on the major themes that their philosophies differ on and have in common. While the editors give a cursory overview of the two thinkers, most of the introduction is a summary of the twelve essays in the volume. Nor does the volume deal adequately with the practical everyday implications of each philosophy for living the socalled “good life.” This anthology is meant mainly for scholars and/or laypersons who are familiar with the “essentials” of Kierkegaard and Levinas, especially the latter, whose specialized language is extremely challenging to the uninitiated.
Paul Marcus, Ph.D., a psychoanalyst, is the author of Being for the Other: Emmanuel Levinas, Ethical Living and Psychoanalysis and In Search of the Good Life: Emmanuel Levinas, Psychoanalysis and the Art of Living.