On Kierkegaard and the Truth

By Paul L. Holmer

An examination of the subtleties of Kierkegaard’s understanding of philosophical truth by one of the twentieth century’s leading Kierkegaard scholars.

ISBN: 9780227680049


Professor Paul L. Holmer (1916-2004) was one of the most significant American students of Kierkegaard of his generation. Although written in the 1950s and 1960s, Holmer’s theological and philosophical engagement with Kierkegaard continues to challenge much contemporary scholarly discussion. In On Kierkegaard and the Truth, Holmer masterfully applies understanding gleaned from a lifetime’s study to guide the reader through the philosopher’s perspectives on truth. The author draws on his sympathy and understanding of Kierkegaard’s idiosyncratic style to reveal a wealth of unexpected levels of reflection and discourse within his writings.

Unlike many, Holmer refuses reductionist readings that tie Kierkegaard to any particular school of philosophical thought. In his important reading of Kierkegaard on “truth”, he pits Kierkegaard against those who see “truth” empirically, idealistically, or relativistically. This carefully textured account of Kierkegaard’s conceptual grammar of “truth” in ethical and religious contexts addresses current discussions of truth, meaning, reference, and realism versus antirealism, relativism, and hermeneutics.

Holmer shows us that Kierkegaard refused to divorce passion and reason in his treatment of Christianity, asserting that belief in a transcendental force is a legitimate response to the anguish and uncertainty of human life. Furthermore, he defended the emotions and passions of human life as containing their own manner of logic. The author redeems Kierkegaard as a true philosopher, in spite of claims that he prioritized religion at the expense of intellectual and logical thought, and reveals that his works present a sustained argument about the nature and limits of human intelligibility, communication, and truth.

Brimming with valuable insights and ably edited by Kierkegaard scholars David J. Gouwens and Lee C. Barrett III, On Kierkegaard and the Truth is a book to interest any philosophically minded reader and will be of great importance to all interested in Kierkegaard and his importance for contemporary thought.

On Kierkegaard and the Truth is the first volume of The Paul L. Holmer Papers, which also includes Thinking the Faith with Passion: Selected Essays (Volume 2), and Communicating the Faith Indirectly: Selected Sermons, Addresses and Prayers (Volume 3), both of which are available from James Clarke and Co Ltd.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 342

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Professor Paul L. Holmer (1916-2004) was Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology at Yale Divinity School (1960-1987), having previous taught at Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota. He was widely recognised as a leading authority on Kierkegaard, and was the author of books and papers on the subject, including the two-volume Kierkegaard’s Edifying Discourses.

David J. Gouwens is Professor of Theology at Brite Divinity School. He is the author of Kierkegaard’s Dialectic of the Imagination (1989) and Kierkegaard as Religious Thinker (1996).

Lee C. Barrett III is Stager Professor of Theology at Lancaster Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Heidelberg Catechism (2007), Foundations of Modern Theology: Kierkegaard (2009), and co-editor of Kierkegaard and the Bible (2010).


Foreword by Stanley Hauerwas
Editors’ Preface
Author’s Preface

1. An Introduction to the Problem
2. A Glance at a Contemporary Effort in Danish Philosophy
3. A New Way of Philosophizing
4. The Bible and Christianity
5. History and the Sciences
6. Truth Is Subjectivity: Some Radical Criticisms
7. Truth Is Subjectivity: Some Logical Considerations
8. Some Epistemological Questions
9. Kierkegaard and Metaphysics
10. Kierkegaard and the Nature of Philosophy
11. Indirect Communication
12. Kierkegaard and the Sermon
13. Faith and Christianity

Afterword: Paul L. Holmer: Self-Effacing, Swaggering, Nonpareil, by David Cain
Appendix: Paul L. Holmer: A Select Bibliography

Index of Names
Index of Subjects


Endorsements and Reviews

Professor Paul L. Holmer was the doyen of Kierkegaard studies for much of the later part of the twentieth century. His jargon-free writings are crisp, clear, epiphanic, and always in earnest.
Gordon Marino, Professor of Philosophy, St Olaf College

Paul Holmer, who died in 2004, was a major figure in Kierkegaard studies in the post-war USA. This volume has been lovingly reconstructed from his papers by David Gouwens and Lee Barrett, who have done us a service in making such a significant piece of work available.
Steven Shakespeare, in Modern Believing, Vol 54.3

Holmer occupies an eminent place in the transmission of Kierkegaard’s thought in twentieth century America. This book breathes renewed breadth and depth into that influence. … Holmer’s account is always in service to both the reader and to the thought of Kierkegaard that is so admirably invigorates and crystallizes. … this is not another book ‘about Kierkegaard’; rather, this is a book that forces us to read Kierkegaard as if our lives were at stake.
Simon D. Podmore, in The Expository Times, Vol 125, No 3

… this too-brief summary cannot do justice to the complexities and depth of Holmer’s reflective thoughts on Kierkegaard and truth … This volume would be very helpful for anyone interested in Kierkegaard’s concept of truth, his means of communicating it, and perhaps also for those looking to bridge the ‘continental-analytic rift’.
Victoria Davies, in Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol 21, No 1

In this important study, the late Paul L. Holmer offers a robust depiction of the thought and writings of Søren Kierkegaard. … This book is recommended not only to those looking for an in-depth discussion of Kierkegaard’s philosophy but also to anyone seeking a more profound treatment of his thought.
Joshua A. Hurd, University of Otago, in Theological Book Review , Vol 25, No 1

On Kierkegaard and the Truth … gives us a carefully argued and well written inquiry of Kierkegaard as a philosopher. … H.’s book is still an important book to read particularly because of the fruitful and for his time very innovative way that H. uses the later Ludwig Wittgenstein in H.’s interpretation of Kierkegaard’s reorientation of thinking about religious, existential and ethical matters.
Iben Damgaard, University of Copenhagen, in Theologische Literaturzeitung, Vol 139, No 2