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[FALL24] Kierkegaard for Clinicians: Finitude, Despair, and the Absurdity of Hope


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Full course description

September 23 - December 16, 2024 | 7-8:30pm (ET) - Fully Online Learning Group


In The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker examines the import that the works of the 19th century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard have on modern psychology. Calling Kierkegaard a psychoanalyst, he argues that the philosopher of religion saw deeper into the human psyche than most analysts today.

Participants in this 4-month Psychological Humanities and Ethics workshop, led by Professor Matthew Clemente, will meet from 7:00 to 8:30 PM EST on the third Monday of each month from September to December to examine the insights and ideas of one of history’s most formative psychologists. The workshop will entail reading Kierkegaard not as a philosopher in the classical sense but as a proto-psychotherapist, a precursor to Freud, Becker, Girard, and Lacan. Participants will trace the early understandings of such fundamental psychological concepts as anxiety, despair, and repetition to the works of Kierkegaard and will explore the concepts of absurdity, faith, mimesis, ethics, and desire. By the end of this course, participants will have an in-depth knowledge of the major works and ideas of one of modernity’s most prominent and influential thinkers.

Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of this learning series, the participant will be able to:

September 23 – Seduction (The Seducer's Diary)

  1. Explain the role seduction plays in human affairs.
  2. Identify the connection between seduction as a philosophical concept and its manifestation in clinical practice.
  3. Describe how Kierkegaard employs seduction in his own writings to draw readers to oft-neglected insights.

October 21 - Desire (Stages on Life's Way)

  1. Identify “desire” as the defining characteristic of human life.
  2. Explain how erotic desire manifests itself in seemingly non-erotic situations.
  3. Explain the psychological implications of Kierkegaard’s notion of desire.

November 18 – Anxiety (The Concept of Anxiety)

  1. Identify “anxiety” as a personal and religious phenomenon.
  2. Explain the relation between anxiety and despair.
  3. Explain the psychological and moral implications of the singularity that anxiety forces upon us as individuals.

December 16 – Despair (The Sickness unto Death)

  1. Describe Kierkegaard’s notion of the “despair” and its import for his thought.
  2. Explain how despair impacts the individual psyche and the human community more broadly.
  3. Explain how Kierkegaard’s understanding of consciousness gives rise to his diagnosis of the universal despair of all human subjects.

Timeline and Requirements:

The learning group will take place from September 23 - December 16, 2024. This series is presenter-led and is a fully online experience. Sessions will be conducted synchronously online via Zoom from 7:00 pm-8:30 pm (ET) on the third Monday of each month. 

CE Sponsorship: 

This lecture does not offer CEs for other clinicians not listed below, and we only grant CEs for synchronous attendance of events. Participants must attend the workshop in full and complete the post event survey to be eligible to receive CEs.

University Counseling Services of Boston College is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. As a co-sponsor of this program, University Counseling Services of Boston College maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Participants will be eligible to receive 6.0 CE units from University Counseling Services of Boston College.

Application for social work continuing education credits has been submitted. Please contact us at for the status of social work CE accreditation.

Application for MaMHCA/MCEAP continuing education credits has been submitted. Please contact us at for the status of CEs for LMHCs.

Conflict of Interest Notification

A potential conflict of interest, commercial support, and/or commercial interest applies to sponsoring organizations, the presenter, and the content of the presentation. Participants are advised that the presenter's books are listed on the promotional materials and will be referenced in the professional development. Thus, there are potential biases inherent in accepting inducements that might affect the selection of texts, the use of particular tests, and/or sponsorship of CE courses. During this program, Professor Matthew Clemente will discuss the utility/validity of the content/approach offered as well as the limitations of the approach and the most common (and severe) risks, if any exist.

Fees & Policies:

Payment is due by credit card at registration. Refunds will be granted only up until registration closes at 5pm on September 23th. No refunds will be granted for errors on the participant's part (such as incorrect name/email upon registration, login failure, scheduling conflicts, etc.)

Additional offerings from the Lynch School Professional & Continuing Education Office can be found on our website


Matthew Clemente is a Lecturer at Boston College specializing in existentialism, philosophy of religion, and contemporary Continental thought. He is the author of Technology and Its Discontents: The Perils of Ethical Distancing (with David M. Goodman, Oxford University Press, 2024), Posttraumatic Joy: A Seminar on Nietzsche’s Tragicomic Philosophy (Routledge, 2023) and Eros Crucified: Death, Desire, and the Divine in Psychoanalysis and Philosophy of Religion (Routledge, 2019).