The grammar and socio-political implications of Kierkegaard’s Christian virtue of meekness

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This paper argues that in Kierkegaard’s works, in his upbuilding discourses and late journal entries in particular, meekness or gentleness (Danish: Sagtmodighed) is presented as a distinctive moral and spiritual quality that exhibits a number of characteristics that are usually regarded as attributes of a virtue. Following a “grammatical approach” to what counts as a virtue, rather than a specifically Aristotelian-Thomistic interpretation, it is argued that Kierkegaard presents meekness as an encompassing attitude, a character trait, which can be acquired through imitation of exemplary persons, Christ, in particular, which aims for the good life, is conducive of the good, and is for the benefit of others and the self. It is demonstrated that according to Kierkegaard, meekness differs from other virtues such as courage and patience by its forgiving attitude towards the wrongdoer and nonviolent resistance to injustice and evil. As a virtue that disposes a person to nonviolent resistance, meekness has socio-political implications: injustice is uncovered and criticized for the benefit of “the poor”. A meek person does not confirm the world in its evil, but criticizes it, albeit in a way that is appropriate to meekness, i.e., in a forgiving and nonviolent way.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1431
Number of pages15
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2023

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