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Philosophy student named a Kierkegaard Library summer scholar

May 12, 2014
Nathaniel-Taylor_2-web 
Nathaniel Taylor, a senior philosophy major, will spend the summer studying the text and topics of philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. 

EAU CLAIRE — Senior Nathaniel Taylor, a philosophy major from Waunakee, has been named a summer scholar in the Young Scholars Program at the Hong Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

The Kierkegaard Library is a special collection of writings and ideas from 19th-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The Young Scholars Program is designed for college seniors or recently graduated college students who will be entering graduate school.

During the program, Taylor, a McNair Scholar, will study under Professor Gordon Marino, a leading Kierkegaard scholar. He will perform an in-depth study of a chosen Kierkegaard text or topic as well as develop his own area of scholarship under Marino's mentorship.

Taylor's acceptance into the program shows what a hard worker he is, said Dr. Matthew Meyer, a senior lecturer in philosophy. It also shows that philosophy majors from UW-Eau Claire do just as well in competing for grants and scholarships as those from other regional schools, he said.

"I hope the program continues to grow Nathaniel's interest in Kierkegaard and philosophy in general," Meyer said. "He is going there with a specific set of problems within Kierkegaard's thought that he is wishing to address, and I know he has the drive to do as much as he can toward 'solving' them with the opportunity allotted."

As a summer scholar, Taylor will research the area of Kierkegaard's philosophy called the three life stages.

"Kierkegaard understands people as going through three life stages: the aesthetic, the ethical and the religious," Taylor said. "The idea is that one begins in the aesthetic stage, directing one's effort and energies toward fulfilling personal desires and interests until one moves into the ethical stage, where one directs their efforts toward fulfilling moral obligations and duties. There are many scholars in the field who consider Kierkegaard's formulation of the life stages as incoherent because the reasons to move from the aesthetic to the ethical would only be convincing to those who are already in the ethical, so movement through the life stages would be impossible. I will use my tenure at the library to attempt to resolve this issue by looking for a conception of teleology in Kierkegaard's philosophy that might help explain how a person might move through the life stages."

In addition to deepening his knowledge of Kierkegaard and developing the specific projects he'll be working on, Taylor will experience the joys of scholarship, said Dr. Sean McAleer, an associate professor of philosophy.

"Nathaniel will have the opportunity to immerse himself in the study of one of Western philosophy's great thinkers with one of the world's leading Kierkegaard scholars," McAleer said. "It's not just that he'll make contacts with other young philosophers with similar interest, but he'll also be joining a dedicated community of scholars."

The Young Scholars Program will open up opportunities for further graduate studies in the fields of Kierkegaard studies: moral philosophy, religious philosophy and the history of philosophy, Taylor said.

"I am incredibly thankful and honored to be chosen for this program," Taylor said. "This provides me with the opportunity to meet many other talented scholars and expand my own knowledge and research skills that will assist me as I go forth in my career as a researcher."

Taylor's interest in philosophy stems from a desire to achieve deep understanding of thoughts and concepts, McAleer said.

"Nathaniel's mind is both sharp and deep," McAleer said. "He has an enviable ability to appreciate detailed and subtle argumentation without losing sight of the big picture. He's not interested in scoring argumentative points against an author but in securing a deep, dialogical understanding. It's rare to find such intellectual maturity in someone so young."

Taylor will graduate in 2015 and plans on pursuing graduate studies in philosophy.

For more information about the Young Scholars Program at the Hong Kierkegaard Library, contact Dr. Sean McAleer at mcalees@uwec.edu or 715-836-2975.

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