Marino lecture to bring Danish philosopher to life

Academics Campus & Community

October 1, 2021

By Karen Duarte ’22 and Samantha Clayman ’25

Gordon Marino will give the second lecture of the six-part “Grand Illuminations: Speaking from the Heart” series, which aims to enlighten individuals about how the humanities impact their lives.

Marino will deliver “Walking with Kierkegaard: Life Lessons” at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20, in the Centenary Room (room 264), Quadrangle Building, Saint John’s University. The event is free and open to the public.

Søren Kierkegaard is a 19th century Danish philosopher who deeply influenced Marino’s life and philosophy.

“The lecture makes a case for how existentialism’s insights are so vital for living a good, meaningful life,” said Tony Cunningham, professor of philosophy at the College of Saint Benedict and SJU and the director of the series. “He (Marino) will bring Kierkegaard to life in an engaging, charismatic way.”

Marino is professor emeritus of philosophy and director of the Howard and Edna Hong Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. He has written for internationally acclaimed news outlets and periodicals like the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Commonweal and American Poetry Review.

He has also written extensively on boxing, along with serving as a boxing commentator and licensed boxing coach. He was a Division I football player at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and a professional boxer. He served as an assistant football coach at St. Olaf and Yale University.

More recently, Marino has authored and edited many books on existentialism; his latest book is The Existentialist’s Survival Guide: How to Live Authentically in an Inauthentic Age (Harper Collins, 2018).

Existentialism is a 20th century philosophical movement that asserts that one’s actions and choices determine their life’s meaning. Marino’s book draws on the beliefs of other existentialist philosophers like Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche and Albert Camus to develop his own ideas about life and philosophy.

“The main reason that I was attracted to Kierkegaard and company was that they, more than any other group of philosophers, seem to address our inner obstacles such as anxiety and the funk more perceptively than anyone else,” Marino said in a 2018 St. Olaf news article.

“I’ve suffered from anxiety, depression and all kinds of troubles, many of them self-inflicted. More than articulating abstract theories, I try to provide personal examples of the ways in which this motley crew of thinkers, known as existentialists, have positively impacted my life,” Marino said in that article.

Like these existentialists, Marino took moods and emotions seriously, and he used his personal experiences to pose crucial questions about the role of anxiety, suffering and disruption in our central identity. He discussed how cultivating negative emotions is essential for living authentically.

“One of the points I emphasize in the book is that we have a relationship to our emotions. To be a human being is to have certain feelings that come and go through us, but we have choices to relate to those,” Marino said in “The Partially Examined Life: A Philosophy Podcast and Blog” from 2019.

Marino’s belief that people can choose about how to process their emotions is the basis for his existentialist philosophy. With his lecture, Marino will engage with the audience about how this philosophy can help guide their lives.

The Grand Illuminations lecture series initiates conversations about weighty things for human lives. The lectures are public occasions where people come together and turn their minds honestly to things that matter, speaking plainly and sharing their thoughts and ideas, along with their doubts and questions. The lecturers come from various disciplines: philosophy, history, English literature, classics. They all share a common cause, to speak from the heart about things that matter in a human life.

The series is entirely funded by a generous donation from SJU graduates Bill Pelfrey ’88 and Steve Halverson ’76.

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Gordon Marino

Gordon Marino