Comparing Søren Kierkegaard and Feng Youlan on the search for the true self

Richard C.K. Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This article attempts to compare the theories of life between Søren Kierkegaard and Feng Youlan. It will focus specifically on the identity of the self in Kierkegaard's "stages of life" and Feng's "realms of life" (rensheng jingjie). Whereas Kierkegaard subscribes doctrinally to the Christian understanding of the self and claims that the highest stage of life is achievable only for the God-centered self, Feng draws his insights from the Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist traditions, which, by imposing human values onto the universe, runs the danger of rendering the self the very center of the "great whole" (daquan ̈). Moving beyond a descriptive comparison, I will argue that the Kierkegaardian stage theory includes a critique of Feng's realm doctrine, the latter appearing to be overly idealistic, missing the dark side of the human essence so succinctly pointed out by former and, consequently, falls short of offering a more realistic description of the self.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-105
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Chinese Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Philosophy


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