Kierkegaard and Narrative Self-Development
The looming question about life’s meaning is more salient in our modern era of advanced technological developments and social structures. Søren Kierkegaard, the nineteenth-century author and philosopher, perceived this modern dilemma and provided a meaningful answer to the urgent existential struggle by developing an extensive understanding of selfhood and establishing a comprehensive method for self-development. This thesis argues that empirical evidence from contemporary neuroscience and psychology substantiates Kierkegaard’s explanation of the self and self-development. I explain in chapter one that, even with the vast amount of knowledge that modernity has brought, we cannot seem to reach the heart of the matter about life’s meaning, and deaths from despair are currently at an all-time high. In chapter two, I explain that Kierkegaard works out a detailed concept of selfhood that emphasizes the importance of self-conscious awareness, contemplative inwardness, and the power of transcendence. This requires that people know themselves and their character, which also creates significance in life through embracing the task of freedom. In chapter three, I argue that Kierkegaard’s conception of the self is teleological, and to guide self-development properly over time, a person must aim to become a single individual that imitates the intentions of Christ. I argue in chapter four that knowing the self as a single individual and imitating Christ’s intentions becomes easier when selfhood is structured in narrative self-identity. I establish the practice of narrative-self-talk as a tool to guide self-development towards the Kierkegaardian telos that focuses on maintaining explicit conscious awareness of the self as a single individual. Chapter five shows that the Kierkegaardian concepts of teleological selfhood and narrative self-development are supported by evidence from psychology and neuroscience. Furthermore, this evidence shows the method to be highly efficient and effective for shaping a person’s habits, schemas, and character. In chapter six, I conclude by showing that this empirically backed methodological approach ultimately provides meaning to life by generating belonging, coherence, and significance while also satisfying the human need for transcendence in life.