Reality itself is a system—for God.…’ But if what prevents the existent from entering into a system is that it is not the sort of being that can so enter in, then it is idle to tell us it does so in the thought of God, for this is to say at once that it does and that it cannot. It may help readers unfamiliar with Kierkegaard's style to gain some idea of the difficulties facing the interpreter if we quote two sentences in which he tries to bring these two stages into sharp contrast: ‘Religiousness A is the dialectic of inward transformation; it is the relation to an eternal happiness which is not conditioned by anything but is the dialectic inward appropriation of the relationship, and so is conditioned only by the inwardness of the appropriation and its dialectic. D. F. Swenson in E. Geismar, Lectures on the Religious Thought of Søren Kierkegaard (Minneapolis, Augsburg Publishing House, 1937), xvii. And this seems to be false to fact. In some of his pseudonymous works, Kierkegaa… ‘Christianity wishes to intensify passion to its highest pitch.’67 ‘the scribbling modern philosophy holds passion in contempt; and yet passion is the culmination of existence for an existing individual’;68 it is ‘the highest expression of subjectivity’.69 One can assent to theological dogmas with the cool impersonal neutrality of a geometer, but to be religious is to take a stand on a matter of life and death, and neutrality on such an issue is indifference or blindness. Is it not precisely as we lay aside subjective desires, purposes, and prejudices and look at things objectively that we can hope to see things as they are? We are here to help and encourage you! The natural protests of our moral sense are overruled by a ‘standard of measure’ that we are assured is superhuman. I recall that, stimulated by such fair words, I approached his books with high expectations. But he meant far more than this. Normal experience or impartial reflection would never suggest this view of sin; it comes straight from a special brand of theology. by Walter Lowrie (Princeton Univ. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required.’80 Kierkegaard says that if subjectivity had been allowed to settle the issue, the right verdict would have been given. Westphal's decision to posit 'biblical faith' as the beating heart of Kierkegaard's view is a compelling way to think about what faith means for Kierkegaard. These things are not mere probabilities, low or high; to our intelligence they are absurdities. Over and over again they have retreated to what they thought a tenable entrenchment, only to be forced ignominiously back, and still further back. Two types of volition are of particular interest here, the will to believe and the will to behave. Instead, it provides Kierkegaard with the basis for putting what he calls "absurdity" at heart of his definition of faith. The great thing about the act demanded of Abraham was that it was pointless absolutely. In favour of what? The things that the religious man ought to laugh at were somehow the things that Kierkegaard found comical. Suppose Socrates is five feet ten and weighs 180 pounds. And we have seen that, according to Kierkegaard, it is a fact incapable of establishment by any process of objective thought. Some confusion is evidently at work. Daily and hourly we make choices implying judgements that it is better to be happy or enlightened or at peace than it is to be the opposite; indeed the person who chooses to affirm that nothing is better than anything else presumably assumes that it is better so to affirm than not to do so. If we were told that though a certain belief was improbable we should try to make ourselves believe it, that would be intelligible, whether ethical or not. It must be believed. Furthermore, the saint or knight of faith, according to Kierkegaard, is a man whose leading concern is not the welfare of others but his own ‘eternal happiness’, a description incidentally that applied to himself. There is no reason at all that Isaac should be returned to Abraham, and yet, by virtue of the absurd, it happens. This position is most clearly displayed in the writings of Kierkegaard. ‘The ungodly calmness with which the irresolute man would begin in the case of God (for he would begin with doubt), precisely this is insubordination; for thereby God is deposed from the throne, from being the Lord. Does this view make sense? In the game of argument, the dice are loaded on the side of the rationalist, and if you are to avoid bankruptcy, there is only one way out, namely to decline the game altogether. He was like a business man who builds up a commercial empire by condemning and buying up the businesses of all his competitors on the strength of promissory notes which he cannot redeem. If the sun really stood still over Gibeon, that must have meant that the earth stopped revolving; but if the earth had suddenly stopped revolving, we should all have been pitched eastward at a thousand miles an hour and blotted out. ‘Had I had faith I should have remained with Regine,’ he once confided to his diary.112 But the line he more commonly took was that he threw her over because he did have faith, or at least because renouncing her would give exaltation to his spiritual life. Unfortunately reason can say no more. For the incarnation is not a fact of more or less probability; to our reason it is bound to look like an impossibility. 16 We must agree that it has its elements of truth. It is not that you in particular are a failure; you may indeed be the nearest thing to a saint that the race has produced; no matter; you too have failed, and must go on failing. This position, unlike the preceding one, is actually advanced by some rationalists. Can any case of such conflict be cited? 30 Now this sort of division between thinking and willing cannot be maintained. The emphasis in the Old Testament is on the law and the prophets—in the earlier days obedience to the law of Moses, in the later days the acquirement of a clean heart; the emphasis of the New Testament is on the service of God through the love of man. It rests on the real pathos of existence. A philosophy that many critics have found so illuminating seems hardly an appropriate butt for Kierkegaard's mockery. Excerpts on faith from Provocations, a collection of the spiritual writings of Kierkegaard. Suppose we say of Socrates that he is human and has a certain height, weight, and colour. The more perceptively religious he becomes, the wider becomes the felt abyss between what God demands of him and what he can do. 2 Luther died in 1546; Galileo was born in 1564: and the name of Galileo has come to be a symbol of the scientific challenge to the Biblical view of nature. 1813. On this, T. S. Eliot's remark is pertinent that ‘it is by no means self-evident that human beings are most real when most violently excited’. There is nothing in principle new in this conception of humour, though Kierkegaard was perhaps the first to show its connection with religion and metaphysics. It was in this sense that for Kierkegaard subjectivity was truth. Nor is it self-evident that the person who feels most strongly about death realises its nature most fully, that the kind of criminal, for example, who is soddenly indifferent until impending execution jars his torpid feeling into life, and is then dragged shrieking to the chair, has necessarily seen the meaning of death more clearly than the man who has reflected about it long and quietly. ‎In this work, Sullivan analyzes the relationship between faith and reason in Kierkegaard's philosophy. For what one elects or chooses in a choice of this kind is a course represented in thought, and presumably represented as right. Evans here defends the Kierkegaardian view that genuine religious knowledge is grounded in faith beyond reason by analyzing faith as making possible a critical analysis of the limits of reason that reason … Aesthetic. There is no antecedent reason why he should not approach his Deity, and find a revelation of him, through his aesthetic and intellectual faculties as truly as through his conscience. 31 We have seen that in ‘the task of becoming a Christian’ Kierkegaard finds ‘objective thinking’ unnecessary. If Kierkegaard looked at us in puzzlement as to what we could possibly mean by saying that elephants exist but mammoths do not, or that King Alfred existed while King Arthur did not, he would suddenly find us intelligible enough if we said that three cases of smallpox existed in Copenhagen or that his particular house was on fire. Just as Hegel recognised three main stages on the way to the Absolute—being, essence, and the notion—so Kierkegaard distinguishes three ‘stages on life's way’, the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious. Though recognising the nobility and beauty of the Christian ideal of life, they went on to question this too. But we must remember also that the theology he inherited was the Lutheran theology of a human nature so deeply sunk in corruption as to be salvable only by an interposition from on high, an interposition as unpredictable before it happened as it was inexplicable afterward. Though Christian, Kierkegaard is considered to be the father of existentialism, the school of philosophy that puts the individual and his emotions, thoughts, responsibilities and actions at the center of its considerations. What did Kierkegaard mean by these cryptic pronouncements? And just as an impulse must be kept in place if it is to serve the interests of the whole self, so a self must be kept in place if it is to play its part in society. Religiousness B, as henceforth it is to be called, or the paradoxical religiousness, as it has hitherto been called, or the religiousness which has the dialectical in the second instance, does on the contrary posit conditions, of such a sort that they are not merely deeper dialectical apprehensions of inwardness, but are a definite something which defines more closely the eternal happiness (whereas in A the only closer definitions are the closer definitions of inward apprehension), not defining more closely the individual apprehension of it, but defining more closely the eternal happiness itself, though not as a task for thought, but paradoxically as a repellent to produce new pathos.’ CUP, 494. As SK says elsewhere on this subject, "There are two ways of reflection. The leap of faith is a daring, passionate, non-rational commitment to the paradoxical and the unintelligible. With an apparently untroubled conscience, for example, he could seek to destroy the growing reputation of so harmless a friend as Hans Christian Andersen through an anonymous manuscript ‘published against his will by S. Kierkegaard’, and could subject another friend, the kindly Bishop Mynster, to public vilification after his death. To Kierkegaard is it not Kantian reason which leads to God but faith. In short, Kierkegaard's view attests to Blaise Pascal's statement that "faith has its reasons of which reason knows nothing." True faith … And certainty we must have. A being who is eternal or out of time cannot have measured out his life in human years. These may be poor things, but we know them, and know that they have served us not badly. In part, we have suggested, from his own clouded and morbid mind. Get this from a library! The umbilical cord from God to man was moral; we were sinners before a righteous Deity who was taking moral account of us. Taking the former point first: a process of thought is itself a process of willing; to hold attention to a certain course and to resist the solicitation of irrelevancies may be voluntary action of a peculiarly resolute kind; indeed James considered the control of attention the essential factor in willing. Kierkegaard tells us that it is beyond characterisation. ‘For the absurd is the object of faith, and the only object that can be believed.’85. He might as well have tried to keep the colour of the rose while doing away with its form. It establishes the proper role of faith and reason. There is a problem here of importance, which deserves an analysis it does not receive. He must remind himself that though this is a sick and twisted mind, such minds have, on occasion, shown a sharp eye for truth. To countless persons who were trying to combine religious belief with intellectual honesty such announcements sounded as the guns of Havelock must have sounded to the defenders of Lucknow. His sin, therefore, is a personal betrayal, an alienation from Deity, which can be set right by no acts of repentance or amendment, but only by a grant of divine grace. It may be that a particular apple fell at a particular moment on the particular head of Isaac Newton, but if it did, that is no part of science, for science is concerned only with law, for example the law that matter as such obeys the gravitational formula. For the person who possesses the insight, the principles and consequences involved in the act are held to be irrelevant; its character as seen by faith is its true character, which takes precedence of any judgement of our merely human faculties. Some of the central dogmas of the faith, such as those of the Trinity and the incarnation, have disclosed under further study so large an admixture of Greek thought as to render an origin in unique revelation hardly credible. But the rationality of healthy-mindedness had no appeal for Kierkegaard. What was presented as Abraham's duty, what he was honoured for accepting, was the production of these evils without any thought of compensating goods. Or to take the sort of case that Kierkegaard prefers—for he was preoccupied with the erotic—the love of Dante for Beatrice was real, though a vast gulf separated the thought of her from the existent woman of flesh and blood. For Kierkegaard, faith isn't a way of knowing or an act of trust in God's goodness and love for us. They require not merely that we should be generous, but that whenever we give we should give just the right amount, no more and no less. Is it our duty to be just in the same degree as a man who knows ten times as much about the facts of the case, and is free from our fears and prejudices? We are moral lepers whatever we do. It makes truth relative to the passions and preferences of the individual mind, no matter how anarchic or conflicting these may be. And when one has done this, one really has already chosen another master, wilfulness.… ‘111 To argue the case with the philosopher is to risk defeat on an issue too important by far to be dealt with by a match of wits. He believed that because faith is characterized by absolute certainty and passionate personal commitment, it can never be supported by reason. The central fact of Christianity, Kierkegaard holds, is the incarnation. But I do not wish to conceal my own belief that psychological causes as distinct from logical reasons had much to do with his conclusions. Now it is obvious that an indiviual thing or man, say Socrates, is not made up of universals like these. Only look at Hegel.’ Very well, look at Hegel; a glance will suffice to show whether he is an appropriate object for such derision. He means to say that objective thought by its very nature is unable to deal with existence. It may summon us to something dramatic and unconventional, such as murder on a mountain top; ‘men will continue to commit atrocities,’ said Voltaire, ‘as long as they continue to believe absurdities’. ‘But whoever is neither cold nor hot is nauseating.… Had not Pilate asked objectively what truth is, he would never have condemned Christ to be crucified. Lost in all the fuss was Benedict's subject: the relationship of faith and reason in the Christian tradition. It lay in the thesis that religion was not a rational affair at all, and that reason was therefore incompetent, irrelevant, and impertinent in sitting in judgement upon it. ‘The ethical lays hold of each individual and demands that he refrain from all contemplation, especially of humanity and the world.…’56 ‘In all his writings Kierkegaard maintains that doubt is not checked by means of reflection but by an act of will.’57 Will may rightly terminate reflection, but in ethical choice reflection must not impose itself upon will. 44 We have been dealing with the absurdity apprehended by faith in the field of morals. But in two important respects Kierkegaard's account of it is puzzling. ‘It is an abominable lie to say that marriage is pleasing to God. My experience was like that of John Laird, who wrote, after a determined attempt on Either/Or: ‘By the time I had finished the first enormous volume I was sadly disconsolate. A son who is a separate person from his father cannot also be one with that father; still less can three persons be one. Moreover, I argue that Kierkegaard should not be read as an irrationalist standing out-side of the Christian tradition, but rather, with Fabro’s hands, Kierkegaard is brought into the mainstream of the long Western tradition of theological reflection upon the relation between faith and reason. ‘Teleological’ means ‘for an end’, but what Kierkegaard is praising here is the abandonment of all thought of ends and the doing of something that from every human point of view is productive of nothing but evil. The roles of intelligence and feeling have somehow got reversed. His preference for excluding the sunlight and working behind drawn blinds was symbolic of his inward climate, which was one of an almost pathological gloom. Perhaps because of a perception of this, he seems at times to identify subjective thought with the act of judgement itself as a bare psychological event, distinct from anything judged. Two answers are possible. Kierkegaard's insistence that moral imperfection entails infinite guilt seems to have been largely based on this elementary confusion. And thought can obviously deal with universals of this kind, both singly and in groups. Festival of Reason (de-Christianization of France) 1799. The discontinuity is so great between the inner man, occupying his stratosphere of absurdity, and his natural interests and activities that the two may coexist in the same person without visibly affecting each other. It is also a leap of faith since faith, not reason, is the only thing that can enable it. ‘Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him.’79 It was only when Pilate, against his objective judgement, capitulated to the passion of the accusers that he gave the tragic sentence. 21 The four conditions we have now considered—resignation, suffering, guilt, and humour—are requisites for the first stage of religion, called by Kierkegaard stage A. This may perhaps be translated as follows. And even though he lived a relatively short life (he died in his early 40s), his writings on faith, the Church, ethics and the nature of God have gone on to have a profound influence on Western Culture and the legions of … The knight of faith sometimes startles us as much by his banality as by his transcendence of moral claims. Efterladte Papirer, IX, 503; quoted by Regis Jolivet, Introduction to Kierkegaard (N.Y., Dutton, n.d.), 158. How could a commitment of the will, however passionate, be true or false? It was a limited challenge, which seemed at first to affect only some passages in the Old Testament. Holding, in Kantian fashion, that only the self that makes moral choices is free, and seeing that the rise of the impulsive self to rationality and freedom is a somewhat mysterious process, he describes this as a choosing of oneself. Though the aestheticist prides himself on his closeness to reality, he is in fact living among abstractions, as Hegel said of the man of mere common sense; for the self is a complex affair, and casual desires, even when they reach their ends, do not satisfy more than a fragment of it. But his philosophy terminates in a rejection of those very principles of logic on which he proceeded as a philosopher. Let us turn to these in order. The forces of faith were foolish to take the forlorn liberal line of throwing piece after piece of their creed as sops to the enemy; let them turn on the foe boldly, take the offensive and oust him from their territory, where he had no right to be. Some kind of algorithmic demonstrability is ordinarily presupposed. God made it possible for you to know. Am I implying that in respect to this sense of guilt Kierkegaard himself was not quite sane? But in religion it is Hebraism, not Hellenism, that has won the allegiance of the West. Like a man who would be ready to travel anywhere in the world to hear a singer with a perfect voice, so does God listen in heaven; and whenever He hears rising up to Him the worship of a man He has led to the uttermost point of disgust with life, God says quietly to Himself: That is the note.’20. So far as we succeed in being rational beings, it is because this massive and rational system is having its way with us. To try to explain it or defend it rationally is to play into the hands of the enemy. The religious man will keep his intelligence firmly enough in its place to accept both pictures. If he really means the first, he is asking the impossible. Faith and reason in Kierkegaard. Such renunciation of human desires, drastic as it is, belongs to the lower stage of religiousness because it can be achieved by a sufficiently heroic effort of the will. 5 Now the hold on the contemporary mind of the theology pioneered by Kierkegaard lies in its clear perception of where rationalism tends, and its strategy in meeting the invasion. Our ways of showing this reasonableness may indeed differ. The ethical level, says Kierkegaard, is the level of ‘the universal’. To his credit, he has occasional doubts. This act is really subjective in the sense that your act can never be mine, nor mine yours. Every man, he said, ‘is born in sin and as a sinner’. Today is Søren Kierkegaard’s 203rd birthday. Interestingly, a comparison with Pascal can help one arbitrate between these two responses to the dubious irrationalist reading of Kierkegaard. It is that faith is concerned with a special type of problem. Granting that revelation occurred, must it not have been filtered through the all-too-human minds that first received it, and must we not suppose that as the initial message is placed in a wider setting of knowledge and discernment it will receive an increasingly rational interpretation? All that matters for Kierkegaard is the willingness to take a "leap into faith.". In a world governed by justice in our sense of the term, it would certainly be strange if an acceptance of Christianity were exacted from us while the powers with which we were endowed would not allow us to do more than ‘approximate’ to it. 17 Now the requirement of guilt in this sense as a condition of religion we clearly cannot accept. To do wrong on a merely ethical level is to break a rule laid down by our reason; to sin is to relate oneself to the ultimate power in the world in a way that bears on one's eternal destiny. 24 There is something in this objection, and since Kierkegaard places great store by it, we shall do well to try to see what this is. But if made with truth about any man who was trying to understand Christianity, it would be, according to Kierkegaard, an evidence of failure. 7 Our concern will naturally be with the third or religious level, but the first two should be noticed briefly. It has provided through many centuries a charter for those who have burned witches, supported slavery, and put down heresy by force, and it further simplifies their task by enabling them to dismiss appeals to reason as irrelevant. His contention that thought cannot deal with existence is put so obscurely that there is difficulty in extracting from it a meaning definite enough to refute. Now the truly judicial mind is one which, with a broad apperception-mass of experience and ideas, is able to bring it freely to bear on each point as it arises. To understand why that's the case you need to be familiar with the work of the 19th-century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, whom I often quote. He is close to those who trust in him. The aesthetic life is lived for the here and now; it surrenders itself to passion and desire; it refuses to take long views or to look before or after. Kierkegaard insists that the love felt by the knight of faith is not mere human love, and if one can make any inference from his own practice, he was right, since the love displayed in that practice permitted a selfishness and harshness toward others—toward Hans Andersen and Regine and his mother and brother and Bishop Mynster and the unfortunate ‘Christians’ about him—which the lower love would have rendered impossible. For Kierkegaard, faith isn't a way of knowing or an act of trust in God's goodness and love for us. Kierkegaard … Most Protestant theologians have long seen that no one can continue to hold such a belief without canons of textual criticism that are naively elastic. That is an important part of the teaching. For it implies that there are no common truths for Christians to accept, no common principles by which their lives may be guided, indeed no common Deity for them to contemplate and worship. Tiptoeing nearer, he hears his father moaning and groaning in an agony of despair. 41 What are we to say of a rhapsody (in forty thousand words) in praise of pure and holy murder, of a defence of the humanly immoral on the ground that it is religious duty? Besides, not everything we have accepted can be dissolved, even by the acids of modernity. No, once more. His point, however, may be different. His interest is no longer engrossed in himself; he shares the interests of his wife and children and awakes in them a concern for his own good. Press; Princeton Univ. So long as Pilate allowed himself to be governed by the evidence objectively considered, his stand was for acquittal. ‎In this work, Sullivan analyzes the relationship between faith and reason in Kierkegaard's philosophy. That was the great fact of our relation to him. I may try to evoke in you an emotion similar to mine; I may describe my feeling, or make gestures, or write a poem, but I can no more transfer my feeling into your mind than I can transfer a toothache. The weapon was a bomb designed for wholesale retaliation. ‘What lies at the root of both the comic and the tragic in this connection, is the discrepancy, the contradiction, between the infinite and the finite, the eternal and that which becomes.’31 What is ‘essential for humour’ is ‘the retirement out of the temporal into the eternal by way of recollection’,32 a requirement that some humorists of one's acquaintance might have difficulty in meeting. 25 Here Kierkegaard has plainly gone too far. The particular occurrent and the individual thing or person therefore defy explanation by any process of thought, however extended. We find this here denied. He discussed the rise and fall of particular civilisations, such as the Chinese and the Greek; he discussed particular movements, like the crusades and the Reformation; he even discussed individuals, like Caesar and Charlemagne. We must remember, says Kierkegaard, ‘that even with the most stupendous learning and persistence in research, and even if all the brains of all the critics were concentrated in one, it would still be impossible to obtain anything more than an approximation; and that an approximation is essentially incommensurable with an infinite personal interest in eternal happiness.’48. He imagines himself meeting such a person: ‘Good Lord, is this the man? The second stage, it will be recalled, was the ethical, in which impulse was replaced by law or principle in the guidance of conduct. But that is to ask perfection, and we know that this is beyond us. 32 We may note, first, that in subjectivity one's self is felt as active. What is it that distinguishes an act of faith from other subjective acts, such as making a moral decision? Press, 1939), 90. Among the things that we see clearly to be wrong is the condemning of anyone for acts that he did not do. It is hard to take the claim seriously. The law of contradiction is not a principle that is valid in some cases and not in others; if it is invalid in any case, it is invalid as such and therefore in every case. But prying palaeontologists kept bringing to light human relics whose period, as reliably dated, was of fifty or sixty times that age. He denounces the attitude that ‘found no fault in this man’ and exalts the attitude of non-objective and passionate self-righteousness that led to his conviction. But the passion of the infinite is precisely subjectivity, and thus subjectivity becomes the truth.’107 (This looks like both an undistributed middle and an illicit minor, if logic still has any importance.) ‘The object of faith is thus God's reality in existence as a particular individual, the fact that God has existed as an individual human being.’81 This is the distinctive fact of Christianity, which marks it out from all other religions. Press, 1944), I, 20. 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