Indkaldelse af projekter

Kierkegaard and French laïcité

Call for projects: from 06/03/24 to 01/06/24 Conference (held in English) : 09 and 10/10/24 Location : Institut Français du Danemark, Rolighedsvej 37

Call for projects

“The French would never understand him,” predicted Mrs. Regine Schlegel, Kierkegaard’s former fiancée, in an interview she gave a few years before her death. It is not clear why Mrs. Schlegel thought that the French would never understand Kierkegaard’s thought as she did not explain herself any further, but if she were right, a conference on Kierkegaard and French laïcité would be of little interest. She seems to have been mistaken though, as the French reception of his thought has been prolific, spurring a broad and intense debate about existence, individuals’ freedom of choice and religious phenomena. However, despite its diversity and richness, the reception of Kierkegaard has rarely discussed the relation between his work and the specific concept of French laïcité.


What is French laïcité?

It is usually said that there are two conceptions of laïcité. The first one is traditional and has its roots in the 1905 law on the Separation of the Churches and the State. This law aimed to prevent any state persecution of religious minorities, as it had been the case during the Wars of Religion. It also hoped to constrain the political power of the Catholic Church. The second conception of laïcité is considered more offensive and appeared around twenty years ago. It requires religious neutrality from citizens working for the State and from pupils in public schools. In 2004, a law passed to ban conspicuous religious symbols in public schools. In fact, by having an education system that does not support any particular religious view, the State aims to fight proselytism, communitarian withdrawals and sectarianism. In that case, l’école de la République aspires to show pupils that religion is not determined by birth, but is something that individuals can freely choose or reject. The common aim of both conceptions is to allow religious plurality and provide religious freedom as well as prevent misconduct from religious communities. In other words, French laïcité is supposed to be an answer to the historical process of secularization that, despite predictions, did not end up with the disappearance of beliefs in the West but with more varied beliefs that cohabit. Laïcité hopes to create a space of vivre-ensemble.

Nevertheless, French laïcité also has its detractors. It has, for example, been criticized for being an attempt to suppress religious phenomena, thus trying to create an atheistic State where religions would not be allowed any political voice. In that case, the goal would be to erase them from the public sphere, which would, by extent, mean that laïcité failed to provide religious freedom. It is obvious that Kierkegaard does not address the concept of laïcité directly as the word itself is not present in his writings. One can nevertheless find ample resources to address and discuss the question that laïcité represents and the issues of religious life, religious pluralism, and freedom. Kierkegaard’s understanding of existence as interiority and choice, his late “Attack Upon Christendom,” his concept of the crowd and his desire to describe various ways of life, could all be relevant to the debate. Kierkegaard is a religious author who sees faith as an existential need, but at the same time he offers a harsh critique of institutionalized religion and of the Church. This conference does not aim to talk about Kierkegaard’s own religious context, but hopes to give Kierkegaardian accounts—thus using Kierkegaardian concepts and theses—to discuss the contemporary issues that come with religious plurality and religious freedom in the private and public spheres. Is French laïcité compatible with a Kierkegaardian conception of religiosity? Does laïcité provide a space for religious freedom and the expression of faith? Is the disappearance of a State

Church synonymous to the end of its religion in a country? In a Kierkegaardian perspective, what place should religions have in the public and political spheres and to what extent should the State be allowed to determine how individuals and communities express their religious beliefs?

Application and contact

  • If you wish to present a paper at the Conference on “Kierkegaard and French laïcité”, you can email an abstract and a title in English as a PDF (max. 350 words) to Cassandre Caballero ( The submission deadline is June 1 st , 2024. Communication of acceptance or rejection will be made by June 15 th , 2024.
  • This Conference is organized by the French Institute in Denmark in collaboration with Cassandre Caballero (CURAPP-ESS, University of Picardie Jules Verne and Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre, University of Copenhagen) and René Rosfort (Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre, University of Copenhagen).