Book Review: Kierkegaard and Socrates
A review of Jacob Howland's Kierkegaard and Socrates: A Study in Philosophy and Faith
Jacob Howland's study is an essentially modest and exegetical work that, in large part, delivers what it sets out to do. It does so in a clear and unabashedly enthusiastic manner, mostly making good its claim not to presuppose that the reader has 'more than a general knowledge of the vocabulary of philosophy' (p. 2). Howland opens his Introduction by telling us how he first came to read Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments and of the impact its 'brilliance', 'ardor', and 'mystery' made on him. He acknowledges that this present book was conceived in that first passionate response, however much it may also have been subsequently informed by and be addressed to the discourse of contemporary academic philosophy — all of which is very much in line with the role that Kierkegaard and Kierkegaard's Socrates gives to passion in the quest for truth, philosophical or religious. For it is central to Howland's argument that passion — or, to use the Socratic-Platonic term, eros — is, as he puts it, capable of becoming 'a ladder by which one could climb up to an understanding of faith' (p. 137).