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Kierkegaard and the Figure of Form-of-Life

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posted on 2020-11-06, 14:18 authored by Tom Frost
Much attention has been paid to the influence that Carl Schmitt and his writings on the exception have had on the thought of Giorgio Agamben. Yet much less attention has been paid to how Søren Kierkegaard’s existentialist writings can inform Agamben’s philosophy, and specifically his figure of form-of-life. Agamben’s work is driven by a desire to explore a politics exemplified by the figure of form-of-life. If bare life is the result of biopolitical operations of sovereign power, then form-of-life is the figure of the coming politics which seeks to deactivate those modes of power that create and sustain bare life. I argue that form-of-life needs to be read as an existentialist figure, and that Kierkegaard’s own writings can shed light on this elusive concept. Form-of-life is a life lived in a non-relational ethical existence, not lived through identity politics or relationality. Rather, through ‘contact’ with other forms-of-life (contact refers to Agamben’s own form of proposed relation with others), and in living a life of contemplative use, it deactivates the appropriative biopolitics that constantly divides and separates life. I argue that form-of-life should instead be read as a new interpretation of Kierkegaard’s claim that the self results from the fact that the human being is a synthesis through which its existence is defined. In an existentialist reading of form-of-life, I illustrate how form-of-life is subject to a continual process of repetition, an existential process that is always already happening.

History

Citation

Tom Frost, 'Kierkegaard and the Figure of Form-of-Life' in Marcos Norris and Colby Dickinson (eds.), Agamben and the Existentialists (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 2021)

Author affiliation

School of Law

Version

  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Agamben and the Existentialists

Publisher

Edinburgh University Press

isbn

9781474478779

Acceptance date

2020-08-10

Copyright date

2021

Language

en

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