Kierkegaard in Space

Earth from Space-NASA image

NASA image: Earth as viewed from outer Space

Andreas Mogensen is the first Danish astronaut. Mogensen was sent to the International Space Station for a ten-day mission on September 2, 2015. As the first Dane in space, Mogensen brought a number of items typical of Danish culture to share with his fellow astronauts. These items included: some Legos, some Danish ryebread-based porridge, and readings from Hans Christian Andersen and the 19th century philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The Kierkegaard reading was from his popular and very accessible work, The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air, published in 1849.

As explained in the British newspaper, The Guardian:

“Prof Niels Jørgen Cappelørn, from Copenhagen University, recommended Kierkegaard’s classic The Lily of the Field and the Bird of Air, telling the Guardian: “It’s all about silence, obedience and joy – something I thought would be an inspiration in space – and an important theme in these texts is passion, which you need to be an astronaut.”

Mogensen, who was to read a ten-minute selection from the work to his fellow astronauts on board the spacecraft, brought along a first edition of Kierkegaard’s work, but because the work was written in Danish, Mogensen also brought along University Connecticut Kierkegaard scholar and translator Bruce H. Kirmmse’s recent English translation of the work to read aloud to his audience. Kirmmse’s translation of The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air is slated to be published by Princeton University Press in February 2016.

Floating in the black void of space hundreds of miles from Earth, one might have thought Mogensen would have chosen Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling or The Concept of Anxiety. But his fellow astronauts may just be glad he didn’t bring The Seducer’s Diary.
Rob Tempio is Executive Editor for Philosophy and Humanities Group Publisher. He oversees the Press’s many Kierkegaard publications.

In Search of the Spirit of Compromise

Missing: The Spirit of Compromise

Last Seen: Sometime in the mid 90’s

If found: Please return to Capitol Hill, Washington DC immediately

Reward: A well-functioning, responsible government


If only our leaders could learn that the election is over and that it’s time to govern, not shut down the government. May The Spirit of Compromise return to our representatives soon!


The Spirit of Compromise

How Not to Run A Country


As our government shuts down today and our leaders fail to find the common ground necessary to settle their differences, they would do well to be reminded of the words of the Roman statesman Cicero:

“In politics it is irresponsible to take an unwavering stand when circumstances are always evolving and good men change their minds. Clinging to the same opinion has never been considered a virtue among statesmen.”

I doubt old Marcus Tullius would think this is any way to run a country. To find out how he thought one should be run and what we might learn from him check out How to Run a Country.


How to Run a Country

So what do philosophers do…Richard Rorty wanted to know too!

The American Philosophical Association held the  annual meeting of its Eastern Division in Philadelphia last week, as per long-standing custom, during the days between Christmas and New Year (Dec. 27th – 30th). As usual, what precisely philosophers do at this meeting proved to be fodder for a journalistic round-up of the conference’s events as Carlin Romano does here in a piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Some things never change it seems. In a previously unpublished essay included in PUP’s just released 30th anniversary edition of his seminal work Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Richard Rorty, who died last year, used the occasion of the journalistic coverage of the annual meeting as a launching point for his musings on what it is philosophers do and should think of themselves as doing. The essay, entitled “The Philosopher as Expert,” which was originally written sometime between 1958 and 1961 and which foreshadows Rorty’s later views on the nature of philosophy expressed in the book, opens with  the following passage:

“An unusually thorough reader of the New York Times will occasionally come across a back-page squib announcing that the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association has just held its annual three-day meeting, and that it has elected Professor White to succeed Professor Black as its president. Should he ask himself what this organization might be, he will probably conclude, correctly, that it is made up of the people who teach philosophy in colleges and universities. Dim memories of a course called “Ethics” or “Descartes to Kant” may return, and he will recall the slightly comic earnestness with which old Professor Dunkelberg attempted to demonstrate that pleasure wasn’t worth having, or that the desk in front of him was an idea in the mind of God. If he wonders what went on during those three days, he will probably guess, correctly again, that these people spent their time reading papers at each other. But he may ask himself, why couldn’t the Times find anything newsworthy in all that paper-reading? Are the philosophers content merely to mumble to themselves? Surely by now they’ve passed beyond Dunkelberg’s dreary absurdities? Philosophy, after all, is supposed to be the queen of the sciences, to provide us with ultimate values, to give direction to the whole movement of human thought. Why aren’t the philosophers pulling their weight?”

Some things do indeed never change.