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Hearing the Word of God: A Kierkegaardian Phenomenology of Conscience

ABSTRACT: “Husserl insisted that I should study Kierkegaard.” So recounts the Russian existential philosopher, Lev Shestov, in his posthumously published 1939 essay, “In Memory of a Great Philosopher: Edmund Husserl.” Why would Husserl have said such a thing? As soon as one begins attempting to trace the conceptual lineage of phenomenology back to Kierkegaard, a number of philosophical connections worthy of attention emerge. Above all, it is the phenomenon of conscience that constitutes the cornerstone of such an analysis. For, just as conscience lies at the heart of the human experience, so too it lies at the heart of the attempt to exhibit that experience in philosophical thought. By emphasizing that life (and thought) is lived before God, a Kierkegaardian phenomenology of conscience illuminates what is most at stake, both methodologically and existentially, in doing phenomenology, and realizes phenomenology’s longstanding ambition to make sense of what it means to be the kind of beings we are, or, as Kierkegaard would put the matter, to be a single individual. Focusing on the phenomenon of conscience, this lecture develops an account of doing phenomenology in a Kierkegaardian way, that is, doing phenomenology before God.

Presenting our first Colloquium for 2023: Dr. Steven DeLay (Tutorial Fellow, Ambrose College, Woolf University; Research Fellow, Global Centre for Advanced Studies College Dublin, and an accomplished researcher and author) gives us a lecture and Q&A on “Hearing the Word of God: A Kierkegaardian Phenomenology of Conscience”. This lecture investigates the question of whether phenomenological method is congenial to the discussion of God, or whether it necessarily brackets or excludes God from its inquiries, through the question of conscience.

Dr. DeLay undertakes this investigation through tracing the lineage of phenomenological inquiry expressed in Edmund Husserl’s life and thoughts into Kierkegaard’s understanding of “being a single individual”, and in contrast with the phenomenological approach and consideration of Martin Heidegger. Thereby are raised the questions of language’s meaningfulness and our responsibility for it, both in our speaking and in our hearing. Listeners will be challenged to reconsider the purposiveness of life’s experience as reflected in his or her consciousness of being one who has a conscience.

Lyceum Institute members may listen to the lecture now and participate in the Live Q&A on 16 February 2023 at 6:00pm ET (event times around the world here).