Gordon Marino and Søren Kierkegaard on the art of introspection

Gordon Marino St. Olaf professor Gordon Marino has a post that was published on the NY Times Happy Days blog on Wednesday that’s currently the #1 emailed articled on the entire NYT site. It’s called Kierkegaard on the Couch (Marino is also curator of the Hong/Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf.) 

These days, confide to someone that you are in despair and he or she will likely suggest that you seek out professional help for your depression. While despair used to be classified as one of the seven deadly sins, it has now been medicalized and folded into the concept of clinical depression.

In America, there is endless talk of the importance of having a dream — that is, a dreamed-up self that you will to become: a millionaire, a surgeon, or maybe the next Dylan or George Clooney. But master of suspicion that Kierkegaard was, he goes on to note that while the man who has failed to become Caesar would have been in seventh heaven if he had realized his dream, that state would have been just as despairing in another way — because in that giddy self-satisfied condition, he would never have come to grasp his true self.

The spirit is one thing, the psyche another: The blues one thing, despair another. How might Kierkegaard have parsed the distinction for the Doubting Thomas who will only believe what he can glean on an M.R.I.?


  1. Anthony Pierre said:

    I  can’t believe I missed this.  I get alerts every time he posts on the huffington post.

    I guess this isnt the huffington post, its the nyt.

    October 30, 2009
  2. Ross Currier said:

    Ah, the heck with all that…

    …Gordon is also a baseball fanatic.

    October 30, 2009
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    A NYT commenter, Kim V., wrote:

    So I guess to slapdashedly summarise Kierkegaard was the first guy to posit that ‘we are not our thoughts’? … One of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned.

    That’s true for me as well, but it’s way too tough for mere mortals like me to discern that from Kierkegaard’s writing.

    I really don’t see any difference between sensible psychological self-help and spiritual growth. Maybe that’s because I’m atheist who thinks the principles of cognitive psychotherapy can be boiled down to a ‘learn to want what you have’ approach to life that works well for average screwed-up people like me.

    And while I’m at it, are there any Northfield-area ministers who, from their pulpits, tear apart New Age law of attraction gurus like James Arther Ray and Christian prosperity Gospel gurus like Mac Hammon?

    October 30, 2009
  4. Jerry Jenkins said:

    Ah, Gordon my friend and former neighbor. Yes, I live with a more or less existential conception of life, which is, of course, sometimes a bitch. But, I have never been able to reconcile rational thought with a belief in myths. I say rational thought as opposed to…, well, you know. Your old house is still standing. Come and see us sometime. J&M

    September 4, 2011

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