Philosopher in the Ring

Steven Knepper in Commonweal:

Gordon Marino teaches philosophy at St. Olaf College and curates the Hong Kierkegaard Library. He has spent decades writing about the existentialists. His passion for them did not begin in the classroom, though. After a failed relationship, with derailed careers in both boxing and academic philosophy, a young Marino strugged with suicidal thoughts. While waiting for a counseling session, he spotted a copy of Søren Kierkegaard’s Works of Love on a coffee-shop bookshelf. He opened it to a passage in which Kierkegaard criticizes a “conceited sagacity” that refuses to believe in love. Intrigued, Marino hid Works of Love under his coat on the way out the door. He credits the book with saving his life. “At the risk of seeming histrionic,” Marino writes, “there was a time when Kierkegaard grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me back from the crossbeam and the rope.” In Kierkegaard and other existentialists, Marino found philosophers who wrote in the first person, took moods and emotions seriously, and kept up a staring contest with despair. While these eclectic thinkers often had qualms about the professoriate, they led Marino back to academic philosophy. He returned with an older conception of philosophy as a way of life and a pursuit of wisdom, a conception the existentialists helped renew and one that animates this compelling study of them.

More here.