11/17/2010 LECTURE 16: KIERKEGAARD SØREN KIERKEGAARD OUTLINE. Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher who lived between

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1 LECTURE 16: KIERKEGAARD SØREN KIERKEGAARD Sren Kierkegaard Kierkegaard was a Danish philspher wh lived between A cntrversial figure in the histry f religin thrugh his attack upn Christendm One f the funding fathers f existentialism He was greatly inspired by Scrates Key wrks include: either/r, fear and trembling, purity f heart is t will ne thing, the cncept f anxiety. OUTLINE 1

2 1. Kierkegaard s Subject Many f Kierkegaard s wrks are, like Scrates', cncerned with explring existential and religius themes Ultimately it is up t each individual t find their wn answer t the big questins Fr Example, What kind f being am I? Wh am I? What shuld I d with my life? What is it t be a Christian? What is it t live? Why d peple cmmit immral acts? What is faith? What I really need is t get clear abut what I am t d, nt what I must knw, except insfar as knwledge must precede every act. What matters is t find my purpse, t see what it really is that Gd wills that I shall d; the crucial thing is t find a truth that is truth fr me, t find the idea fr which I am willing t live and die. Søren Kierkegaard, Jurnals and Papers. 2. Subjectivity versus Objectivity (and ther key cntrasts) In cntrast t Hegel, Kierkegaard ften emphasizes the unique and irreducible cntrasts between the fllwing: Subjectivity versus bjectivity Belief versus Knwledge Faith versus Reasn Fr example, Gd lves me Is a subjective belief Objective knwledge includes facts like 2+2=4 Fr Kierkegaard, belief in Gd requires faith, passin, subjectivity and belief, nt bjective knwledge. Mistakes ccur when we try t relate bjectively t that which is entirely subjective 3. Kierkegaard s Scratic Methd Because f his subject matter Kierkegaard used a number f Scratic devices: Speaks t the individual reader Pseudnymus Authrs Indirect Cmmunicatin Irny and Humur Kierkegaard uses a literary apprach (Jurnal entries, diaries, letters) rather than an analytical and philsphical apprach All f these methds are aimed at bringing the reader t a recgnitin f hw they live s that they might change t a mre authentic way f living 2

3 4. The Attack n Christendm Kierkegaard famusly claimed that he was nt a Christian Fr Kierkegaard, ging t church n Sundays, being baptized etc. (Christendm) was nt sufficient fr being a Christian Being a Christian invlves pursuing a very difficult (perhaps impssible) ideal Kierkegaard attacked and fundamentally challenged Christendm with the indictment that it was n lnger true t Christianity Kierkegaard s gal was t cnfrnt Christendm with this fact in rder t transfrm hw peple assciate with Christianity FEAR AND TREMBLING Outline f Fear and Trembling Its creatin is attributed t a pseudnymus authr named Jhannes de Silenti [Jhn the silent] Fear and trembling is A Scratic text and asks the questin what is faith? T answer this questin Silenti investigates the trial f Abraham [Genesis 22:1-9] and asks t imagine if Abraham was alive tday In many respects Fear and Trembling can be interpreted as a respnse t Hegel s philsphy Fear and Trembling is key part f Kierkegaard s cnfrntatin with Christendm FEAR AND TREMBLING 3

4 1. Abraham And Sarah Are Very Old And Sarah Has Still Nt Had A Child 2. Gd Prmises Abraham That Thrugh His Offspring The Wrd Of Gd Will Be Spread Thrughut The Wrld 3. Miraculusly Sarah Gives Birth T Isaac 4. Gd Tests Abraham And Asks Him T Bring Isaac T Munt Mriah T Be Sacrificed 5. Abraham Jurneys T Munt Mriah And Prepares T Sacrifice Isaac 6. At The Very Last Mment An Angel Stps Abraham 7. Isaac Is Spared. Abraham sacrifices the Ram instead. They Return Hme Genesis 22:1-19 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM Caravaggi's The Binding f Isaac Jhannes interpretatin Jhannes finds Abraham's trial t be paradxical, perplexing and terrifying It is paradxical because: A: Gd prmises Abraham that his nly sn will live t spread the wrd f gd AND asks Abraham t sacrifice his nly sn (Gd prmises bth Isaac will live and Isaac will die) B: Abraham believes he will murder his nly sn AND believes he will nt murder his nly sn (Abraham believes he will murder Isaac and he will nt murder Isaac) 4

5 The stry f Abraham is perplexing because: Mst peple claim that they understand the stry f Abraham But Silenti asks: Hw can anyne understand smething s paradxical and absurd? Fr example; Hegel claims that reasn is superir t faith, but can reasn make sense f such a situatin? It is terrifying because: It makes murder int a hly act (Must I g and murder my sn?) Jhannes cannt understand Abraham and des nt knw what faith is Jhannes explres, in great detail, the subjective perspective f Abraham's trial Q: Why shuld I fllw Gd s cmmand? Abraham culd have: Ignred Gd s cmmand Pretended it was nt addressed t him Turned arund and gne hme Murdered Isaac earlier (get the jb dne sner!) Refused t murder Isaac Ultimately Gd s cmmand nly has authrity because Abraham gave it authrity Hence Abraham is respnsible fr his actins Jhannes Asks, What Separates Abraham Frm Madmen And Murderers? Abraham Enjys Hnr And Glry As The Father Of Faith, Whereas He Ought T Be Prsecuted And Cnvicted Of Murder Either Abraham Is The Father Of Faith OR He Is A Murderer Abraham Madman Gd Made Us D It! A: Abraham Has Faith. Q: What Is Faith If It Can Transfrm Murder Int A Hly Act? 5

6 Sme general bservatins n Faith: It is paradxical (invlves believing in bth P and P) Because faith is paradxical it defies reasn; it is absurd Hence, Faith is distinct frm and irreducible t reasn Faith is incmprehensible; it is impssible t understand It is capable f defying human mral standards WHAT IS FAITH? 1. The leap f faith Sme early readings f fear and trembling argue that faith invlves a leap Abraham faces a paradxical dilemma (bth P and nt P are true) Abraham s slutin is t give up all reasn and simply fllw Gd s will Abraham trusts in gd that Isaac will be spared despite the unlikelihd t the cntrary Abraham s faith is justified when the angel interrupts him The pint f fear and trembling is that Abraham takes a leap f faith and trusts cmpletely in gd But! Hw d we distinguish genuine faith frm blind faith? Can we? POSSIBLE ANSWERS 2. Fear and trembling Anther suggestin is that faith requires bth fear f gd and anxiety Abraham faces a paradxical dilemma (bth P and nt P are true) Abraham must accept his respnsibility fr fllwing gd s cmmand (if he is wrng, Isaac will die) [anxiety] Abraham must als accept that gd may want Isaac sacrificed [fear] Abraham s trial is t remain pen t bth pssibilities; he must be prepared t bth lse Isaac and t receive Isaac Blind faith is faith withut fear and trembling POSSIBLE ANSWERS 6

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