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The College of Wooster Philosophy Department ; Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin


O.K. Bouwsma, better known for his imaginative essays of ordinary language philosophy, was a life-long reader of Kierkegaard. Emerging from the Christian Reformed tradition of Dutch Calvinism, Bouwsma initially found a philosophical basis for Christianity in the British Idealism of F.H. Bradley. But while finding his way through that idealism by was or orientation that Wittgenstein provided for dissolving philosophical abstractions with imaginative grammatical investigations, Bouwsma found Kierkegaard the tonic that would cure his philosophical indigestion with Idealism in keeping with his philosophical pursuit of understanding Christianity. As he found his way through the metaphysics of Idealism by way of his fascination with G.E. Moore's common sense philosophy, Bouwsma began reading Kierkegaard, who shared the starting points of Idealism and the desire to think philosophically about Christianity. Daily entries in his notebooks show a regular attention to Kierkegaard's work from the 1930s to the last days of his life in 1977. In spite of the fact that he wrote very few papers on Kierkegaard -- none published on his own -- Bouwsma's philosophical papers aiming at understanding Christianity reflect this life-long attention to his reading Kierkegaard.

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Wooster, OH


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Truth is subjectivity; Christianity subjective; Dogma and Christianity; objective uncertainty; Christianity is not knowledge; decision, faith, and passion; necessity of “indirect method”; philosophy, Socrates, and learning the truth; Fragments: “A Seeming Paradox”; Socrates as representative; Zeno: subjective thinker; contrasted teachers: Socrates and Christ; Fragments: “The Condition”.

Sample Notes from Bouwsma's Commonplace Book on Kierkegaard's Fragments and Postscript

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