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‘Eternity will nail him to himself’: the logic of damnation in Kierkegaard's The Sickness unto Death

  • R. ZACHARY MANIS (a1)

Abstract

Though Kierkegaard's writings are rarely referenced in discussions of the problem of hell, the choice model of hell, I argue, can be strengthened by a close reading of the relevant passages of The Sickness unto Death that bear on the topic of damnation. Each of the two major forms of the choice model that are discussed in the contemporary philosophical literature are anticipated and developed in masterful psychological detail in this key Kierkegaardian text. The first form of the choice model, which sees damnation as the explicit and direct object of choice of those who are finally lost, faces the challenge of explaining motive: why would anyone freely choose eternal damnation? The second form, in which damnation is the natural consequence of certain free choices but not that which is chosen directly, faces the significant challenge of explaining why God does not annihilate the damned, mercifully putting them out of their misery. I argue that The Sickness unto Death contains conceptual resources for meeting both of these challenges.

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Religious Studies
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  • EISSN: 1469-901X
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