Kierkegaard

“Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) also reacted against the abstractness of Hegel’s dialectical march of ideas in the unfolding of the Absolute Spirit because it leaves out the concrete dynamics of personal and individual existence. For Kierkegaard what is actual and particular is more important than universal concepts and abstractions. Passionately Christian, Kierkegaard was contemptuous of organized religion and of the tendency to use doctrines to blunt our awareness of how we are making decisions about our personal existence. He attacks any kind of rationalism (i.e. exclusive dependence on sense observation or reasoning in rejection of belief or faith) and he tries to justify a new commitment or ‘leap of faith’ in which passion and feeling have as much importance as reason and in which the inward and personal life of human beings is recognized as the source of meaning and value. He tried to convey this by indirect communication, for instance in writings under pseudonyms, like Fear and Trembling by Johannes de Silentio. For Kierkegaard genuine choice has to be undetermined in order to be free. This means that it is not enough to appeal to universal standards or criteria, because this would be a failure to take responsibility for our freedom of choice, thus letting ourselves be determined. As in the Knight of Faith’s suspension of the universality of the ethical (e.g. Kant’s categorical imperative, or the Ten Commandments of Hebrew law), choice has to be made out of doubt and uncertainty. For Kierkegaard this would finally have to be an affirmation of God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ, even if this seems absurd to the objectively reasoning intellect. In Either/Or Kierkegaard describes the three basic choices of a way of life: (1) aesthetic—pictured in Don Juan—in which one tries to escape boredom and pain by a relentless quest for pleasures, and which finally ends in the despair of being unable to take responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions or to accept oneself; (2) ethical—pictured in Judge William the Assessor—commitment to duty and obedience to the obligations of an objective morality, which also proves too difficult and unmeaningful and so ends in despair; (3) religious—acknowledging our mortality and sinfulness, the inability of objective ethics to give our lives meaning, and the dread of emptiness that motivates us to make the ‘leap of faith’, a decision to accept our dependence on God whose love becomes the secret of our lives” (Frederick Lawrence, Philosophers and Theologians, Boston College).

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This entry was posted in Existentialism, Kierkegaard, Philosophers and Theologians, philosophy, Philosophy Class Archive, The Self. Bookmark the permalink.

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