When we read Kierkegaard, are we reading theology, philosophy, or merely the literature of a crafty and cunning author? In view of what schematic matrix do his otherwise erratic and unconventional texts become explicable or intelligible? Does Kierkegaard show us the truth about God and Christianity or the truth about the subjective individual?
Or does he perhaps show us no truth at all, but rather a facile and satirical irony? The question will likely never be resolved, and certainly not within its own terms. This image is descriptive. The confusion has already occurred. The author does not exactly suggest that there would once have been a prior moment of complete coherence.
Kierkegaard, Language and the Reality of God - CRC Press Book
And as its condition, it must also be understood paradoxically to condition the very meaning it cannot secure. No one, therefore, can determine with absolute certainty what a text means. Recourse to authorial control, as to any universalizing system or methodology, will always fall outside the realm of textual interpretation, because the author one thus produces is, in a certain way, only a product of the text, not the other way around. There is no authority there, in the text.
The author A is clear about this. This does not mean, however, that these texts become available for a merely random attribution of meaning. Attributed meaning, however apparently responsible, will always have just as accidental a relationship to the text as any biographical interpretation. It cannot supplement and complete what is already in itself incomplete. Texts are not destined to become fragments; they are fragments already. At no point does A suggest that a fragment might be construed as merely part of a whole; he never suggests that there would be something like wholeness or completeness that would be available as such.
And the object of interpretation, accordingly, can never be understood as having to restore a totality that has never existed. Language is fragmentary only with respect to its own incompleteness. Its own incompleteness, not that of some imagined totality, thus renders every text its own self-interruption, self-disjoining. Put another way, we might also say, if the text is incomplete, never itself a totality, then there must be something more than language alone whenever it appears, something more than language that is not the same as language but without which language would not exist.
Every text posits itself as itself at the same time that it posits itself against what it is not. The negative of language can be conceived only as the incalculable void that continually undoes every attempt at purely positive delineation. Each text turns upon its fragmentariness into fragmentation. In this way, the fragment is always itself and its continual fragmentation at the same time. Because language as fragment inherently lacks any guarantee of its own intelligibility, texts are already breaking apart, falling.
Without any universalizing rule of intelligibility, texts can only fall apart. But this does not mean that language is ultimately unintelligible; it just means that its intelligibility can always be presented in another way. For the fragment we have understood thus far, this interruption can amount only to the continual self-interruption and self-suspension of every linguistic utterance.
Its incoherence already inheres in the text. Thus, anacoluthon describes not just a shift from one grammar to another, but a shift in thought itself that is motivated by the very grammar of its expression; it describes the radical irreconcilability of rhetorical presentation with the universalization of the thought bound indissolubly to it. As such, however, the anacoluthic suspension is available never within rhetorical presentation itself, but only in its disruption.
This question remains, however: If language and its meaning are produced rather than given in advance and as a totality, in what sense can a text avoid the apparently inevitable possibility of its own absolute meaninglessness? Without the guarantee of what language must mean, is there equally no imperative that it mean anything at all? How can it not disappear in an apparently nihilistic self-elimination, vanishing into the void of its own utter meaninglessness? It is in part the dream of a common and shared understanding, and yet, in the same way that language in its anacoluthic fragmentation is always somehow more than it appears and always speaks another fragmented and fragmentary language, there is always something beyond the merely common meaning That is, in spite of the fact that language is always accompanied by the unavoidable absence of any guaranteed meaning or guarantor of meaning, one cannot not account for it.
In this sense, language always exceeds itself in the incalculable void of its own indeterminability, the impossibility that one might know in advance what it means and the terms by which it operates. Postscript, [—26] 20 kierkegaard who? And if the pseudonyms are themselves produced pseudonymously, then pseudonymity, even in this account, must itself be the condition of authorship, not the other way around.
If thinking is always structured by language and the subject must express itself in language, then language must already structure the existence of the subject in and as its expression. It is, he later insists, communication that holds subjects apart. And objectivity in communication can do nothing but issue this word of farewell to subjectivity. Objectivity bids farewell to subjectivity, and, in so doing, turns subjects out, exposes them, under the sign of the negative that is there with all of communication.
But, Climacus implicitly asks, is direct communication still communication? Can there be such a thing? The answer, quite simply, is no. Communication, in this sense, always communicates, and it communicates more than one thing, in more than one way. It always expresses at least the possibility of communication in the content of communication, and it always expresses the impossibility of communication—which breaks communication apart—in the communication of existence as the existence of communication.
But to say that communication is always nothing is not to say that it is only nothing: it is always also nothing. And every communication imparts its own fragmentation at the same time. Whether or not you recognize it, we might say, it always recognizes you. And because communication is never direct, it can never communicate its own end.
Assuming that we know the answers to these questions, there remains the kierkegaard who? How do we know? Who tells us? On the contrary, Point of View is no claim of authorship in any direct or conventional sense. In it the author never explains or supplies the meaning for texts previously written. It is a public attestation; not a defense or apology. In spite of all appearance to the contrary, he—like all readers—is in no position to alter or explain his texts in any way. There is no grand interpretive schema that would make these interpretive gestures more comprehensible than others.
So what, we might ask, is the connection to Socrates? There can be no confusion on this point for Kierkegaard. As he explains in Point of View: An author is often merely an x, even when his name is signed, something quite impersonal, which addresses itself abstractly, by the aid of printing, to thousands and thousands, while remaining itself unseen and unknown, living a life as hidden, as anonymous, as it is possible for a life to be, in order, presumably, not to reveal the too obvious and striking contradiction between the prodigious means of communication employed and the fact that the author is only a single individual.
Geoffrey a. Hale - Kierkegaard and the Ends of Language - University of Minnesota Press
But all this, which deserves the most serious attention on the part of one who would study the demoralization of the modern state—all this I cannot enter into more particularly here. Point of View, 45 Entering into it more particularly would precisely be prohibited. Indeed, the very communicability of language, its repeatability and iterability to kierkegaard who?
Journals and Papers, 36 That is, as far as any poetic text is concerned—and it is by no means certain that there is any other kind—it is and remains precisely that: a text. There is always something unutterable about every linguistic 28 kierkegaard who? It is not a trick he is playing as an authoritative author to seduce his readers into one or another belief.
Rather it is already inherent in language itself; it is the very requirement of language. Language and subjectivity remain irreconcilable, and this irreconcilability itself exceeds the delimitations of cognition. Language produces the subject as its own excluded outside. And the moment kierkegaard who? Every attempt to claim authority for him continually exposes the impossibility of such authority and, accordingly, undoes the very meaning ostensibly secured in the name of authority.
What can the work mean—for us? But this is precisely what makes Antigone Antigone. The secret, that is, singles her out—in the same way that communication always also singles out, isolates, and exposes— making her responsible for the inherited guilt as her own. I assume that Oedipus is dead.
Figurality cannot escape its literalness. She is my work, but still her outline is so indistinct, her form so nebulous, that each and every one of you can forliebe sig [fall in love] with her and be able to love her in your own way. The moment he claims Antigone, she claims him. The moment he claims the words he has put into her mouth, she in turn claims his. This possibility, however, is avoided or eliminated only if the task of reading becomes one of discovering or supplying some other principle of authority. On the contrary, the only possibility of reading Kierkegaard exists where the absence of authority is encountered, not corrected.
Besides, his compromising books are pseudonymous and pseudonymous nearly to the core. They can, in their totality and in spite of their contents, just as well be understood as the misleading letters of the seducer, written behind clouds. The texts might always mean something else. This does not mean, however, that Kafka would therefore dismiss them. Its fragmentation, thus, will thwart any attempt to establish a conventional understanding in any traditional sense so that it might be transmitted without any transmutation.
The readings of Adorno, Kafka, and Rilke in this book, then, alternate with rereadings of the Kierkegaardian texts to which they refer. Rather, accepting an already fragmentary relationship to Kierkegaard on the part of these authors, we must investigate the terms of the appropriation in their most particular appearance. And what, in turn, does it mean for our understanding of Kierkegaard that his work might engender such literary permutations?
If the authors we thus discover are less familiar than their names lead us to believe Rilke, Kafka, Adorno, Kierkegaard , that is precisely the point. We cannot know their work before we read it. According to Adorno, the focus on concepts of the self in Kierkegaard remains caught within idealist conceptions of totality.
Yet, if that connection is to be formative in a material way for developments in later thought, to assume that the canonical Kierkegaard of the late twentieth century is the one and only Kierkegaard ever read inevitably misses the connection altogether. If we assume, as most commentators happily do, that there is a connection and that we already know what Kierkegaard means, then we can only rediscover the same Kierkegaard we already assume we know. Kafka, Ibsen, Rilke, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Sartre, and so on— they all become simply imposters standing in for the one, true Kierkegaard.
Before we can begin, and without knowing how the book turns out, we must ask ourselves one question, the same question Adorno posed with his Kierkegaard: What exactly does one read when one reads Kierkegaard? This essay is one of several early texts in which Adorno attempts to articulate a more programmatic assessment of the task of philosophy that he would attempt to pursue in his own work. What exactly does one pursue in this instance? What does philosophy have to do with language? What is language for philosophy?
Yes—and no. And yet, it is by no means certain that philosophy has such an object, by no means certain that one can grasp it by means of its concepts. On the contrary, what philosophy means as philosophy, its language must also mean as language. Or rather, and perhaps more pertinently, what language means as language, it must also mean as philosophy. If philosophical critique and linguistic critique are deemed coextensive, language must itself be philosophy, not just philosophical. Such uncritical assimilation, however, inevitably misses its mark. What, then, does it mean to read?
Adorno does not intend to establish an absolute distinction between the genres of art and philosophy, one that would allow the true assessment of their respective purposes, functions, uses, meanings, and so on, as if, simply by knowing whether a given text was intended to be either poetry or philosophy, one would then be able to formulate an adequate understanding of its assumed philosophical meaning or simply be able to take pleasure in its merely poetic artistry. What the work means, however, is by no means reducible to its 40 learning to read said philosophical intentions.
That is contradicted by the conception of philosophy as poetry. By tearing philosophy away from the standard of the real, it deprives philosophical work of adequate critique. Only in communication with the critical spirit is it able to be tested historically. Kierkegaard, 9; 3 To read philosophy as poetry would be to read the text as self-contained and complete within itself, without need of anything other than itself.
How does it show itself? Does it show itself? What, we must continually ask, is philosophy? Simply put: the idea of science is research [Forschung], that of philosophy, interpretation [Deutung]. Their meaning is neither given nor permanent. In their transience and meaninglessness, the elements of reality are not subject to systematic order. The task is to understand what they mean in their own reality, not what they can be made to mean through the subsumption to or the deduction of another order, another system.
The criterion for this is essentially the aesthetic dignity of words. Thus results the constitutive meaning of aesthetic critique for cognition. Accordingly: true art today no longer has the character of the metaphysical, but immediately turns toward the presentation of real contents of being. The growing meaning of philosophical language critique can be formulated as the beginning convergence of art and knowledge. Philosophy is always presented with only one thing: the word.
This is not to say that the word dissolves into the one thing it would mean. As things, words have an existence irreducible to, if not wholly separate from, what they mean. As existent, they are also historical. This is the material given to critical evaluation. To what extent, now, Adorno asks, can words carry their intended meaning? And, as opposed to this, to what extent can that power be 44 learning to read preserved?
In his reading of Kierkegaard, Adorno traces out the multifarious and ultimately inconsistent and contradictory usage of aesthetics. Not surprisingly, for Adorno this inconsistent use of the term appears explicitly in relation to language. Rather, it must also contend with the particular situation in which the words occur. Second, because there is no point at which one could summarize the aesthetic, there is accordingly no point at which one might leave it behind.
Kierkegaard, now, teaches Adorno something about reading. The understanding of the construction for critique is possible only on the basis of its own learning to read 47 destructibility. And, insofar as the pseudonyms do speak, they will always say more. Words are excess. In the literal appearance is given both the coincidence and the separation of the desired philosophical intention and its concrete representation. In this respect, the limit to the logical system is always the limit of its own representability.
The moment of metaphorical representation is simultaneously the end of metaphorical representation. Yet Adorno, for reasons still unclear, insists on maintaining the concept of metaphor—or insists at least on keeping this word. To take this literality seriously, however, is to recognize that ideas themselves can be only as ephemeral as the words that are used to present them. It must model its question on what it has experienced so that it may be received. Its answers are not given, made, created: the transparent, unfolded question turns into them.
If, for Adorno, philosophy as philosophy is always philosophy as language, philosophy occurs only in its own disintegration. Yet this 50 learning to read history is not one of continuity or teleological progression toward a given end. That is, the possibility of philosophical interpretation is simultaneously the delineation of its impossibility. It is, moreover, its only possible goal.
It cannot be systematically presented as the generalizable and repeatable program for a new philosophy, but remains forever incompatible with any system, any totalization or generalization. Not a method: for the unreconciled matter lacking precisely that identity which substitutes for thought is contradictory and resists every attempt at its unequivocal interpretation.
Dialectics as procedure means thinking for the sake of contradiction once experienced in the thing and thinking against it in contradiction. Or, rather, this discontinuous and contradictory reality always eludes a thinking conceived under the rule of noncontradiction. This is not merely a question of perceiving in general, regardless of any attempted systematic presentation, the point at which the system breaks down and admits the reality irreducible to it.
In this, however, he cannot assume in advance that he knows how they mean. That is, he must follow the very particularity of the aesthetic: Not what is abstractly removed from time truly endures in works of art—in its emptiness, it most nearly succumbs to it. Motifs are maintained whose hidden eternity is most deeply embedded in the constellation of the temporal, most faithfully preserved in its ciphers.
Works of art do not obey the power of the universality of ideas. It would be impossible for language not to be allegory. This was the experimentum crucis. Precisely writing appeared as the conventional system of signs beyond all others. Adorno continues: Conventionally, allegory means the sensible presentation of a concept, and it is therefore called abstract and random. The relationship of what appears allegorically and what is meant, however, is not a random and symbolic one; but rather something particular takes place, it is expression, and what occurs in its sphere, what is expressed, is nothing other than a historical relationship.
The theme of the allegorical absolutely is history. That is the core of the allegorical view, of the baroque, secular exposition of history as the Passion of the world; its meaning resides solely in the stations of its decline. Meaning appears in and as its own collapse. Allegory, as both Benjamin and Adorno point out, requires a particular understanding of history. Even with such a singularly progressive conception of historical time, what appears in history is also bound to another temporality. And in this form, history does not assume the form of the process of an eternal life so much as that of incessant decay.
Allegory thereby declares itself to be beyond beauty. History itself is never as such presentable— which is not to say that it is not somehow present. The presentation of an always paradoxical originary history as history in meaning accordingly determines its own interpretive strategy. Isolated, but never singularly isolable—meaning in history, as meaning in allegory, appears in constellations. I cannot develop these concepts from one another in the conventional way.
This other logical structure itself here is not to be analyzed. It is that of the constellation. We are not concerned with the explication of concepts from one another, but with constellations of ideas, and in particular the ideas of transience, meaning, nature, and history. Less: because it is not limited to pure actuality, but produces the obligation for becoming present precisely where Kierkegaard would prohibit it.
More: because subjectivity, once obliged to construe itself materially without merely losing itself in productive unity, arrives at assertions about existence which are supported nowhere in the Kierkegaardian doctrine of existence in the depths of its concentration. A totality, that is, that is never as such totalizable and never adds up to the universalized subjectivity it might otherwise seek. The moral life is oriented through categories of nature. Not in a causal way: but certainly astrologically. They always return in Kierkegaard. And their allegorical function is not distinct from their categorical one.
This is true not simply for the more abstract understanding of the concepts, but more particularly for each individual subject understood in relation to philosophical concepts. That clearly implies a doubled conception of dialectics: for Kierkegaard there is both a dialectic immanent to the spheres and a dialectic between the spheres. The duality of his conception expresses the aporia of the dialectic of the spheres.
This happens, however, not because something is still missing—some as yet unknown piece, which, 62 learning to read when added to the rest, would complete the picture. Rather, one kind of dialectical movement continually and inevitably interrupts the other. What remains is only dialectic in fragment. Is it more than merely another kind of depiction, another kind of representation? The metaphor of breath is to be taken literally. Namely as the reestablishment of the body in the rhythm of absolute spirituality. The turn of spiritualism into a corporeal doctrine of organs has found its place in the dialectical movement itself.
For the moment of the pause, where dialectics is suspended, is the same one in which its mythical ground echoes: nature in the depth of the tolling hour. Its appearance assures humanity of its transience like the caesuras of time for the deathly ill. The ceaselessly repeated tolling of hours paradoxically contains the uncertain certainty of the end. The rhythmic repetitions of breath appear not as repetitions within constancy, but, as the very image of fracture and discontinuity, insist upon an inevitably ephemeral temporality where an otherwise synthetic dialectical logic would seek permanence.
In the end, Adorno adopts an even more explosive image to explicate the same rhythmic movement. Finding no support outside of its own time, the aesthetic presentation of the aesthetic inevitably breaks apart. Yet this is not the case. Kierkegaard, however, does not say here that some given lapse over which one would express remorse—for which one might even be repentant—is no longer reconcilable. It is the very expression itself—the very reality that is remorse—that is already irreconcilable.
Reconciliation is possible only as it is, paradoxically, irreconcilable. The irreconcilable expression, remorse for reconciliation, can be read only as the irreconcilability of all expression. And yet, Adorno is suggesting more than the mere parallel between two independent spheres. If there can be a subject, it can be only its expression. Its ruins are the ciphers which Kierkegaard traces and hope is placed in the nonsense [Widersinn] of its wishes. What does it mean for Kierkegaard? Their disintegration prohibits any possible reconciliation with the lost ideal.
If melancholy is indeed legible, it is legible only in its expression as already determined by its aesthetic presentation. As such, it is no longer regulated by any schematic systematicity. He would stare more and more anxiously, but the more he stared, the less he would see. In the course of time, the writing would become fainter and more illegible, until at last the paper itself would crumble away, and nothing would be left to him except the tears in his eyes.
The only possible end is the inevitable and irreconcilable decay of the text itself. Here the image of reading is the image of the temporality of the aesthetic. Unable to yield any certain knowledge, in time the text disintegrates; it consumes itself in reading. If they are available to reading, they are available only in their departure, their waning in history. Meaning, it seems, even within inevitable decay of an only ephemeral reality, still moves toward the possibility of reconciliation. If understanding language involves the understanding of its own excesses, the ways in which it exceeds even itself, then any descriptive understanding of language will never entirely present an understanding of language.
Figuration is, therefore, both the most linguistic moment of all language and the impossibility of language. For it is within literature that language meets its own end and the limit of its own possibility. We begin, therefore, with the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, whose work, perhaps beyond that of any other, engages in language the very limit of existence itself. Rainer Maria Rilke began reading Kierkegaard in the winter of — and learned Danish for the sole purpose of reading Kierkegaard and Jens Peter Jacobsen in the Danish original.
However, explicit citations of works by Kierkegaard are rare. More common are more general citations of Kierkegaard. For Kierkegaard—and, as I shall demonstate, for Rilke as well—the problem of death is without question a problem for language. There is simply nothing to represent, nothing to know.
Death is simply the absolute limit to any possible representation. On the other hand, its unpresentability does not prohibit representations; death simply does not concern itself with them. Death is not somehow in search of a representation it would otherwise lack. Even in its irreducibility to any linguistic representation, however, death still cannot be excluded. Death, in this sense, is decisive. To encounter death in language is to encounter the very limit of language. Figural language is not a promise; it is an imperative.
Precisely what this means for Rilke, however, remains to be seen. Ganz gut erkennt man noch an dem glasierten Schwung den Bruch des Henkels. Blieben sie sonst? Sind sie denn hier vernarrt in dieses Essen voller Hindernis? Gelall, Gelall. Death Here stands death, a bluish distillate, in a cup without support. A wondrous place for a cup: stands on the back of a hand. Would they otherwise remain? Are they engrossed here with this eating of hindrance? Then they babble. Babble, babble. O falling star, once seen from a bridge —: Not to forget you: to stand! To insist, however, that death is neither thematizable nor representable does not mean that death does not somehow make an appearance.
This requires still a perhaps more precise reading. What does it mean to stand? What stands? How is it registered? The poem begins, in this way, not with the presentation of death itself it cannot , but with the presentation of language. It might be the literal manifestation of the word itself, being-written as such, simultaneously designating reading as the possibility of relating to death, making language the topos in which the encounter with death takes place. Therefore, Rilke is concerned here not with the representation of death per se, but with the presentation of what would contain death.
No sooner is it presented than it begins falling away. We have to follow the grammar of this poem as well. We are witnessing the breaking up of language, its falling apart.
But wait; we have already gone too far. We must not imagine that this language of falling apart is a language already fallen apart, already past its end. Rather, language is itself this ending without yielding to some unknown beyond. Language is still language; and, in spite of its apparent desperation at this moment, it is still meaningful. The separation of word and meaning is presented here literally as the separation and division in the word itself is presented as its material ruination. There is no going back. Death produces ruins. Figuration itself would inevitably be ruination.
The reading of the presentation of the written inscription is itself also broken, divided—or, rather, it itself also breaks and divides. It literally wears away and uses up inscription. Death, as that which stands written, recedes from reading is never itself graspable and recedes by reading is always thus being worn away. Reading away does not amount to the loss of meaning as its disappearance. To encounter death is to read its inscription, its continual wearing away, decoction, and deformation.
There is no alternative. Death, however, cannot be avoided. To avoid death would simply be to fail to recognize this necessity. Nothing would appear; yet in this nonappearance, there would still be death. The question posed here is this: What sorts of beings are those who cannot confront death, who cannot read it or take it in—take in, that is, its wearing away?
Would they simply continue and persist in some arbitrary or undetermined fashion? What is hindered here, and what hinders? Death, evidently, does not; rather, it is death that one would attempt to avoid. Dann lallen sie. Death obliterates; it is ob-literation itself in the most literal sense as the erasure or striking out of the letter or of what is written.
O falling star, once seen from a bridge—: Not to forget you: to stand! There is no grammatical subject here. It is the command of language to itself in its very occurrence. There are two letters devoted to the discussion of death: one written on October 9, one month before this poem was written, and one written on November 8, the day before Rilke wrote the poem, both of which I will address in a moment. At the same time Rilke was also writing several poems concerned explicitly with death, including perhaps most important, the fourth of the Duino Elegies, which was written on November 22 and But this: death, the whole of death, still before life, so gently to contain, and not to be angry, is indescribable.
If death is nothing, and certainly nothing for description, what happens to description when it must also include this nothing? Dann kommt zusammen, was wir immerfort entzweien, indem wir da sind. Dann entsteht aus unsern Jahreszeiten erst den Umkreis des ganzen Wandelns. Then comes together what we continually divide by being there.
Away above us the angel then plays. Its repetition is. Death, the very source of all intensity in life, must preexist each of its rediscoveries. Or is something else at work? Both here and in the poems, desirable though this universality may be, it is never attained as such—not even as promised in death. The transition to the universal apparently sought in dying is always interrupted by death.
The appropriateness to us of the immeasurable, Rilke claims, is precisely what death would indicate. Life and death cannot be modulated in this way, as if life and death were merely part of the same continuum in which being dead simply follows upon being alive as its continuation in another form; death is not ontologically analogous to living. Death ends life without promising any continued existence.
This limit, as I shall demonstrate, always has two edges, two ways of cutting: its certainty and its uncertainty. That death will come is certain. When it will come is not. Death, Kierkegaard insists, can be neither avoided nor deferred. Death is not an event among others; it is not experienced as others are. There can be no thought, no understanding, without death. If it is impossible to unite all the sayings of the countless living into one saying about life, all the dead are united in one saying, in one single saying to the living: Stand still. If it is impossible affirmation 89 to unite all the sayings of the countless living in one survey about the endeavors of their lives, all the dead are united in one, in a single saying: Now all is over.
In each case, the impossibility of uniting all the statements about life and the living is conditionally related to the univocal command of the dead. Death itself means nothing at all. Yet it always stands in relation to life, issuing the command that the multifarious voices of life necessarily heed. Death appears to make all equal. Both of these claims are equally true for Kierkegaard. Either way, you will regret it. Any possible determination or predication is always simultaneously undermined by its uncertainty. It is never earnest enough, never seriously earnest. Death can never coincide or agree with any explanation to which it might give rise.
Explanation cannot explain what it claims to explain. Any translation or explanation thus produced would leave death untouched, just as inexplicable as it had always been. The question Kierkegaard poses concerns not whether one can read death, but rather what one reads when one reads the nothing that is death. Its failure itself to amount to explanation does not preclude the possibility—or even perhaps the necessity—of explanation in the face of death.
Indeed, for Kierkegaard explanation seems to stand outside the annihilation with which death necessarily confronts life. Or they would have to be the same. But is this security somehow a security against death? However, Kierkegaard becomes suspicious of every explanation, ultimately even his own. He insists that no explanation can ever be certain of its own viability. No explanation is ever explanation enough. Facts are often understood as the basic meaning units that comprise our world, and, as such, they seem to serve as grounds for the way we live our life with meaning.
That is, they seem to constitute the basis for the domain of what can intelligibly be said. And thus, the question that concerns us is: can the meaning of the individual be reduced to factual meaning? In what sense does the 4 Ibid.. How can we speak of the meaningfulness of the individual without submitting our speech to the reign of the factual? For Kiekegaard, these questions do not have a simple answer, and according to him, they ultimately lead to a paradox.
The paradox is "that there is an inferiority that is incommensurable with exteriority". In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard approaches the problem of authenticity in a figurative manner. And in light of what has been said of abstract thought, this should not be surprising. Hence, instead of saying what authenticity is, Kierkegaard attempts a showing of this possibility.
And he does so by turning to a central figure in the imagination of the Judaic-Christian tradition. Contrary to what we might expect, Kierkegaard does not deal with the aberrant, the marginal, or the anomalous which typically represent the pos- ' sibility of an opposition to communal consensus. But instead, focuses on a figure whose story has been completely taken over by the tradition which, cherishing it deeply, has turned Abraham into an exemplary model, a model for the public. This is of course not a coincidence. Hong and E.
Isaac is the fulfillment of the hope of Abraham and Sarah for a child and in this sense, the justification of many long years of suffering ; he is the source of their joy in old age, and is also the promise of a blessed future that extends beyond them. Hence, in giving up Isaac, Abraham is called to revoke the form that holds together the story of his life. But furthermore, what the call — or the decision — to kill Isaac implies is that Abraham must radically turn his back to, that he must deny, the fundamental ethical value of human life. Attempting to take the life of a person who has clearly done him no harm, Abraham indeed finds himself in the paradoxical position of intentionally acting against his most basic beliefs, breaking the primordial commitment that lends his life its human and social form.
In other words, in addition to killing, Abraham is a person who decides to break his fatherly commitment to his son, or more precisely, who decides to betray his son. According to this reading, Abraham exemplifies the possibility of a meaningful existence whose significance cannot be captured in terms of the language of thought.
Abraham, according to Kierkegaard, is a person who takes a radical course of action whose meaning — constituted by an internal contradiction — escapes understanding. The action he takes is directed at destroying what he loves and cares about and feels committed to. And at the same time, it is motivated by neither a practical aim nor a psychological reason.
In other words, Abraham is a person whose deeds cannot be mapped onto a rational matrix of reasons, causes, and justifications psychological, pragmatic, ideological, etc. Abraham, according to Kierkegaard, is a person whose action is meaningful in a manner that transcends language. Or from a slightly different perspective, the manner in which Abraham differs from what can be said about him is not factual.
More specifically, although Abraham is not a murderer, the facts of the matter do not make him any different from one. Nothing makes Abraham different from a murderer. That is, existence is found in a lacuna which, in the space of language, appears in the form of a nothing. Here, however, we are lead back to the question of silence.
Unable to communicate the significance of his action, Abraham finds himself in the position of "an emigrant from the sphere of the universal". Abraham remains silent — but he cannot speak. Therein lies the distress and Anxiety. Even though I go on day and night without interruption, if I cannot make m yself understood when I speak, than I am not speaking. This is the case with Abraham. H e can say everything, but one thing he cannot say, and if he cannot say that — that is, say it in such a way that the other understands it — then he is not speaking.
The relief provided by speaking is that it translates me into the universal. And in this respect, his silence is the sign of his intimate knowledge of both the limits of language and the dimensions of meaning that language cannot embrace. As explained above, the distress and anxiety in the paradox were due in particular to the silence: Abraham cannot speak, unless one wishes him out o f the paradox again, so that he suspends it in the decisive moment and thereby ceases to be Abraham and nullifies all that preceded.
The next level of despair is "The despair that is conscious of being despair and therefore is conscious of having a self in which there is something eternal and then either in despair does not will to be itself or in despair wills to be itself. These three divisions are mostly the self-worth the person has and the amount to which they understand their own despair.
The despair to not be oneself is pretty straightforward. A person sees themself as unworthy and as such does not see themself as worthy before something they do not understand. The despair not to be a self is deeper, because to not wish to be a self is to wish to not have a relation to God or at the very least see one's relation to God as unworthy, and thus shrink from it. The lowest form of this group, however, is the desire to be a new self.
This is logically the deepest form as it assumes the deepest understanding of one's despair. Once in despair, without a complete relation to God one will always be in despair, so to be in this level one understands the permanence of the despair. The despair in this group arises from the nature of sensate things and physical desires. These three sub groups are also grouped under the heading "Despair over the earthly.
The second level of conscious despair under the heading "Despair over the eternal. Unlike in the upper level, this weakness is understood and as such, instead of turning to faith and humbling oneself before God, they despair in their own weakness and unworthiness. In this sense, they despair over the eternal and refuse to be comforted by the light of God.
The last and lowest form of despair is the desire "In despair to will to be oneself. In this form of despair, the individual finds him or herself in despair, understands they are in despair, seeks some way to alleviate it, and yet no help is forthcoming. As a result, the self becomes hardened against any form of help and "Even if God in heaven and all the angels offered him aid, he would not want it. This is the least common form of despair and Kierkegaard claims it is mostly found in true poets. This despair can also be called the despair of defiance, as it is the despair that strikes out against all that is eternal.
One last note is that as one travels further down the forms of despair, the number of people in each group becomes fewer. Many philosophers who initially read Kierkegaard, especially Kierkegaard's written under the pseudonym of Johannes de Silentio Fear and Trembling , often come to the conclusion that Kierkegaard supports a divine command law of ethics. The divine command theory is a metaethical theory which claims moral values are whatever is commanded by a god or gods.
However, Kierkegaard is not arguing that morality is created by God ; instead, he would argue that a divine command from God transcends ethics. This distinction means that God does not necessarily create human morality: it is up to us as individuals to create our own morals and values. But any religious person must be prepared for the event of a divine command from God that would take precedence over all moral and rational obligations. Kierkegaard called this event the teleological suspension of the ethical. Abraham, the knight of faith , chose to obey God unconditionally, and was rewarded with his son, his faith, and the title of Father of Faith.
Abraham transcended ethics and leaped into faith. But there is no valid logical argument one can make to claim that morality ought to be or can be suspended in any given circumstance, or ever. Thus, Silentio believes ethics and faith are separate stages of consciousness. Either one chooses to live in faith the religious stage or to live ethically the ethical stage.
However, everyone wants to enjoy themselves and ethics gets in the way of a person's enjoyment of life if taken to extremes. This results in a battle between those who want to live for pleasure and those who demand an ethical existence. But Kierkegaard always points toward the religious goal, an "eternal happiness", or the salvation of the soul as the highest good. He says, be whatever you want, but remember that your soul belongs to God, not to the world. By now you have easily seen that in his life the ethical individual goes through stages we previously set forth as separate stages.
He is going to develop in his life the personal , the civic , the religious virtues, and his life advances through his continually translating himself from one stage to another. As soon as a person thinks that one of these stages is adequate and that he dares to concentrate on it one-sidedly, he has not chosen himself ethically but has failed to see the significance of either isolation or continuity and above all has not grasped that the truth lies in the identity of the two.
The person who has ethically chosen and found himself possess himself defined in his entire concretion. He then possesses himself as an individual who has these capacities , these passions , these inclinations , these habits , who is subject to these external influences, who is influenced in one direction thus and in another thus. Here he then possesses himself as a task in such a way that it is chiefly to order, shape, temper, inflame, control-in short, to produce an evenness in the soul, a harmony, which is the fruit of the personal virtues. So, too, a dog can be taught to walk on two legs for a moment but then, then comes the mediation, and the dog walks on four legs — mediation also does that.
It may be very commendable for a particular individual to be a councilor of justice, a good worker in the office, no. If, then, at the moment of resignation, of collecting oneself, of choice, an individual has understood this, it surely cannot mean that he is supposed to have forgotten it the next moment. Concluding Unscientific Postscript , Hong, pp. Test it, place as the middle term between the lover and the beloved the neighbor, whom one shall love, place as a middle term between two friends the neighbor, whom one shall love, and you will immediately see jealousy.
Love for the neighbor is therefore the eternal equality in loving. Equality is simply not to make distinctions and eternal equality is unconditionally not to make the slightest distinction, unqualifiedly not to make the slightest distinction. The essential Christian is itself too weighty, in its movements too earnest to scurry about, dancing, in the frivolity of such facile talk about the higher, highest, and the supremely highest.
With the neighbor you have the equality of a human being before God. God is the middle term. Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, , Hong p. For Kierkegaard, true individuality is called selfhood. Becoming aware of our true self is our true task and endeavor in life—it is an ethical imperative, as well as preparatory to a true religious understanding. Individuals can exist at a level that is less than true selfhood. We can live, for example, simply in terms of our pleasures —our immediate satisfaction of desires, propensities, or distractions.
In this way, we glide through life without direction or purpose. To have a direction, we must have a purpose that defines for us the meaning of our lives. Here, then, I have your view of life, and, believe me, much of your life will become clear to you if you will consider it along with me as thought-despair. You are a hater of activity in life-quite appropriately, because if there is to be meaning in it life must have continuity, and this your life does not have.
You keep busy with your studies, to be sure; you are even diligent; but it is only for your sake, and it is done with as little teleology as possible. Moreover, you are unoccupied; like the laborers in the Gospel standing idle in the marketplace, you stick your hands in your pocket and contemplate life. Now you rest in despair. Wherever there is something going on you join in. You behave in life as you usually do in a crowd.
In Sickness Unto Death specifically Kierkegaard deals with the self as a product of relations. In this sense, a human results from a relation between the Infinite Noumena, spirit, eternal and Finite Phenomena, body, temporal. This does not create a true self, as a human can live without a "self" as he defines it.
Instead, the Self or ability for the self to be created from a relation to the Absolute or God the Self can only be realized through a relation to God arises as a relation between the relation of the Finite and Infinite relating back to the human. This would be a positive relation. An individual person, for Kierkegaard, is a particular that no abstract formula or definition can ever capture. Including the individual in "the public" or "the crowd" or "the herd" or subsuming a human being as simply a member of a species is a reduction of the true meaning of life for individuals.
What philosophy or politics try to do is to categorize and pigeonhole individuals by group characteristics, each with their own individual differences.
In Four Upbuilding Discourses, Kierkegaard says the differences aren't important, the likeness with God is what brings equality. Only in this way is equality the divine law, only in this way is the struggle the truth, only in this way does the victory have validity- only when the single individual fights for himself with himself within himself and does not unseasonably presume to help the whole world to obtain external equality, which is of very little benefit, all the less so because it never existed, if for no other reason than that everyone would come to thank him and become unequal before him, only in this way is equality the divine law.
Kierkegaard's critique of the modern age, therefore, is about the loss of what it means to be an individual. Modern society contributes to this dissolution of what it means to be an individual. Through its production of the false idol of "the public", it diverts attention away from individuals to a mass public that loses itself in abstractions, communal dreams, and fantasies. It is helped in this task by the media and the mass production of products to keep it distracted.
Even the fight for temporal equality is a distraction. In Works of Love he writes,. To bring about similarity among people in the world, to apportion to people, if possible equally, the conditions of temporality, is indeed something that preoccupies worldliness to a high degree. But even what we may call the well-intentioned worldly effort in this regard never comes to an understanding with Christianity. Well-intentioned worldliness remains piously, if you will, convinced that there must be one temporal condition, one earthly dissimilarity — found by means of calculations and surveys or in whatever other way — that is equality.
In community, the individual is, crucial as the prior condition for forming a community. For Kierkegaard, in order to apprehend the absolute, the mind must radically empty itself of objective content. What supports this radical emptying, however, is the desire for the absolute. Kierkegaard names this desire Passion. In line with this philosophy, some scholars have drawn similarities between the Stoics concept of Apatheia and Subjective Truth as the highest form of Wisdom.
Kierkegaard and the ends of language, Geoffrey A. Hale
For the Stoics, Pathos Passion is a Perturbation which man has to overcome in a similar manner to Kierkegaard's concept of Objective Truth. According to Kierkegaard, the human self desires that which is beyond reason. Desire itself appears to be a desire for the infinite, as Plato once wrote.
Even the desire to propagate, according to Plato , is a kind of desire for immortality —that is, we wish to live on in time through our children and their children. Erotic love itself appears as an example of this desire for something beyond the purely finite. It is a taste of what could be, if only it could continue beyond the boundaries of time and space.
As the analogy implies, humans seek something beyond the here and now. The question remains, however, why is it that human pathos or passion is the most precious thing? In some ways, it might have to do with our status as existential beings. It is not thought that gets us through life—it is action; and what motivates and sustains action is passion, the desire to overcome hardships, pain, and suffering. It is also passion that enables us to die for ideals in the name of a higher reality. While a scientist might see this as plain emotion or simple animal desire, Kierkegaard sees it as that which binds to the source of life itself.
For Kierkegaard all Christian action should have its ground in love, which is a passion. If anyone is unwilling to learn from Christianity to love himself in the right way, he cannot love the neighbor either. To love yourself in the right way and to love the neighbor correspond perfectly to one another, fundamentally they are one and the same thing.
The Law is therefore: you shall love yourself in the same way as you love your neighbor when you love him as yourself. Whoever has any knowledge of people will certainly admit that just as he has often wished to be able to move them to relinquish self-love, he has also had to wish that it were possible to teach them to love themselves. When the bustler wastes his time and powers in the service of the futile, inconsequential pursuits, is that not because he has not learned rightly to love himself? When the light-minded person throws himself almost like a nonentity into the folly of the moment and makes nothing of it, is this not because he does not know how to love himself rightly?
When the depressed person desires to be rid of life, indeed of himself, is this not because he is unwilling to learn earnestly and rigorously to love himself? When someone surrenders to despair because the world or another person has faithlessly left him betrayed, what then is his fault his innocent suffering is not referred to here except not loving himself in the right way? When someone self-tormentingly thinks to do God a service by torturing himself, what is his sin except not willing to love himself in the right way? And if, alas, a person presumptuously lays violent hands upon himself, is not his sin precisely this, that he does not rightly love himself in the sense in which a person ought to love himself?
Oh, there is a lot of talk in the world about treachery, and faithlessness, and, God help us, it is unfortunately all too true, but still let us never because of this forget that the most dangerous traitor of all is the one every person has within himself.
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This treachery whether it consists in selfishly loving oneself or consists in selfishly not willing to love oneself in the right way — this treachery is admittedly a secret. No cry is raised as it usually is in the case of treachery and faithlessness. Works of Love , Hong p. One can also look at this from the perspective of what the meaning of our existence is. Why suffer what humans have suffered, the pain and despair—what meaning can all of this have?
For Kierkegaard, there is no meaning unless passion, the emotions and will of humans, has a divine source. Passion is closely aligned with faith in Kierkegaard's thought. Faith as a passion is what drives humans to seek reality and truth in a transcendent world, even though everything we can know intellectually speaks against it. To live and die for a belief, to stake everything one has and is in the belief in something that has a higher meaning than anything in the world—this is belief and passion at their highest.
Kierkegaard wrote of the subjective thinker's task in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Intellectual reason had been deified by Hegel in his theology and Kierkegaard felt this would lead to the objectification of religion. There is an old proverb: oratio, tentatio, meditatio, faciunt theologum [prayer, trial, meditation, make a theologian].
Similarly, for a subjective thinker, imagination , feeling and dialectics in impassioned existence-inwardness are required. But first and last, passion, because for an existing person it is impossible to think about existence without becoming passionate, inasmuch as existing is a prodigious contradiction from which the subjective thinker is not to abstract, for then it is easy, but in which he is to remain.
In a world-historical dialectic, individuals fade away into humankind; in a dialectic such as that it is impossible to discover you and me, an individual existing human being, even if new magnifying glasses for the concrete are invented. The subjective thinker is a dialectician oriented to the existential ; he has the intellectual passion to hold firm the qualitative disjunction. But, on the other hand, if the qualitative disjunction is used flatly and simply, if it is applied altogether abstractly to the individual human being , then one can run the ludicrous risk of saying something infinitely decisive, and of being right in what one says, and still not say the least thing.
Therefore, in the psychological sense it is really remarkable to see the absolute disjunction deceitfully used simply for evasion. When the death penalty is placed on every crime, the result is that no crimes at all are punished. It is the same with the absolute disjunction when applied flatly and simply; it is just like a silent letter-it cannot be pronounced or, if it can be pronounced, it says nothing. The subjective thinker , therefore, has with intellectual passion the absolute disjunction as belonging to existence, but he has it as the final decision that prevents everything from ending in a quantifying.
Thus he has it readily available, but not in such a way that by abstractly recurring to it, he just frustrates existence. The subjective thinker, therefore, has also esthetic passion and ethical passion, whereby concretion is gained. All existence-issues are passionate, because existence, if one becomes conscious of it, involves passion. To think about them so as to leave out passion is not to think about them at all, is to forget the point that one indeed is oneself and existing person.
The subjective thinker is not a scientist-scholar; he is an artist. To exist is an art. The subjective thinker is esthetic enough for his life to have esthetic content, ethical enough to regulate it, dialectical enough in thinking to master it. To understand Climacus's concept of the individual, it is important to look at what he says regarding subjectivity. What is subjectivity? In very rough terms, subjectivity refers to what is personal to the individual—what makes the individual who he is in distinction from others.
Another way to interpret subjectivity is the unique relationship between the subject and object. Johann Fichte wrote similarly about subjectivity in his book The Vocation of Man. I must, however, remind my reader that the "I" who speaks in the book is not the author himself, but it is his earnest wish that the reader should himself assume this character, and that he should not rest contented with a mere historical apprehension of what is here said, but really and truly, during reading, hold converse with himself, deliberate, draw conclusions, and form resolutions, like his representative in the book, and, by his own labour and reflection, developed out of his own soul, and build up within himself, that mode of thought the mere picture of which is laid before him in the work.
Scientists and historians, for example, study the objective world, hoping to elicit the truth of nature—or perhaps the truth of history. In this way, they hope to predict how the future will unfold in accordance with these laws. In terms of history, by studying the past, the individual can perhaps elicit the laws that determine how events will unfold—in this way the individual can predict the future with more exactness and perhaps take control of events that in the past appeared to fall outside the control of humans.
In most respects, Climacus did not have problems with science or the scientific endeavor. He would not disregard the importance of objective knowledge. Where the scientist or historian finds certainty, however, Climacus noted very accurately that results in science change as the tools of observation change. But Climacus's special interest was in history. That is, the assumption is that by studying history someone can come to know who he really is as a person.
Kierkegaard especially accused Hegel's philosophy of falling prey to this assumption. He explained this in, Concluding Unscientific Postscript :. It is the existing spirit who asks about truth , presumably because he wants to exist in it, but in any case the questioner is conscious of being an existing individual human being. In this way I believe I am able to make myself understandable to every Greek and to every rational human being. If a German philosopher follows his inclination to put on an act and first transforms himself into a superrational something, just as alchemists and sorcerers bedizen themselves fantastically, in order to answer the question about truth in an extremely satisfying way, this is of no more concern to me than his satisfying answer, which no doubt is extremely satisfying-if one is fantastically dressed up.
But whether a German philosopher is or is not doing this can easily be ascertained by anyone who with enthusiasm concentrates his soul on willing to allow himself to be guided by a sage of that kind, and uncritically just uses his guidance compliantly by willing to form his existence according to it. It has not even occurred to him that it should be done.
Like the customers clerk who, in the belief that his business was merely to write, wrote what he himself could not read, so there are speculative thinkers who merely write, and write that which, if it is to be read with the aid of action, if I may put it that way, proves to be nonsense, unless it is perhaps intended only for fantastical beings. Hegel wanted to philosophize about Christianity but had no intention to ever become a Christian. For Climacus, the individual comes to know who he is by an intensely personal and passionate pursuit of what will give meaning to his life.
As an existing individual, who must come to terms with everyday life, overcome its obstacles and setbacks, who must live and die, the single individual has a life that no one else will ever live. In dealing with what life brings his way, the individual must encounter them with all his psycho-physical resources. Subjectivity is that which the individual—and no one else—has.
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But what does it mean to have something like this? It cannot be understood in the same way as having a car or a bank account. It means to be someone who is becoming someone—it means being a person with a past, a present, and a future. No one can have an individual's past, present or future. Different people experience these in various ways—these experiences are unique, not anyone else's. Having a past, present, and future means that a person is an existing individual—that a person can find meaning in time and by existing. Individuals do not think themselves into existence, they are born.
But once born and past a certain age, the individual begins to make choices in life; now those choices can be his, his parents', society's, etc. The important point is that to exist, the individual must make choices—the individual must decide what to do the next moment and on into the future. What the individual chooses and how he chooses will define who and what he is—to himself and to others. Kierkegaard put it this way in Works of Love, We are truly reluctant to make a young person arrogant prematurely and teach him to get busy judging the world. God forbid that anything we say should be able to contribute to developing this malady in a person.
Indeed, we think we ought to make his life so strenuously inwardly that from the very beginning he has something else to think about, because it no doubt is a morbid hatred of the world that, perhaps without having considered the enormous responsibility, wants to be persecuted. But on the other hand we are also truly reluctant to deceive a young person by suppressing the difficulty and by suppressing it at the very moment we endeavor to recommend Christianity, inasmuch as that is the very moment we speak.
We put our confidence in boldly daring to praise Christianity, also with the addition that in the world its reward, to put it mildly, is ingratitude. We regard it as our duty continually to speak about it in advance, so that we do not sometimes praise Christianity with an omission of what is essentially difficult, and at other times, perhaps on the occasion of a particular text, hit upon a few grounds of comfort for the person tried and tested in life. No, just when Christianity is being praised most strongly, the difficulty must simultaneously be emphasized.
Moreover, the person who chooses Christianity should at that very moment have an impression of its difficulty so that he can know what it is that he is choosing. Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, Hong , pp. The goal of life, according to Socrates , is to know thyself. Knowing oneself means being aware of who one is, what one can be and what one cannot be. Kierkegaard uses the same idea that Socrates used in his own writings. He asks the one who wants to be a single individual the following questions in his book, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits.
Everyone must make an accounting to God as an individual; the king must make an accounting to God as an individual, and the most wretched beggar must make an accounting to God as an individual — lest anyone be arrogant by being more than an individual, lest anyone despondently think that he is not an individual, perhaps because in the busyness of the world he does not even have a name but is designated only by a number.
What else, indeed, is the accounting of eternity than that the voice of conscience is installed eternally in its eternal right to be the only voice! Are you now living in such a way that you are aware of being a single individual and thereby aware of your eternal responsibility before God; are you living in such a way that this awareness can acquire the time and stillness and liberty to withdraw from life, from an honorable occupation, from a happy domestic life — on the contrary, that awareness will support and transfigure and illuminate your conduct in the relationships of life.
You are not to withdraw and sit brooding over your eternal accounting, whereby you only take on a new responsibility. You will find more and more time for your duties and tasks, while concern for your eternal responsibility will keep you from being busy and from busily taking part in everything possible — an activity that can best be called a waste of time Have you made up your mind about how you want to perform your work, or are you continually of two minds because you want to be in agreement with the crowd?
Do you stick to your bid, not defiantly, not despondently, but eternally concerned; do you, unchanged, continue to bid on the same thing and want to buy only the same thing while the terms are variously being changed? Are you hiding nothing suspicious in your soul, so that you would still wish things were different, so that you would dare robber-like to seize the reward for yourself, would dare to parade it, would dare to point to it; so that you would wish the adversity did not exist because it constrains in you the selfishness that, although suppressed, yet foolishly deludes you into thinking that if you were lucky you would do something for the good that would be worth talking about, deludes you into forgetting that the devout wise person wishes no adversity away when it befalls him because he obviously cannot know whether it might not indeed be a good for him, into forgetting that the devout wise person wins his most beautiful victory when the powerful one who persecuted him wants, as they say, to spare him, and the wise one replies: I cannot unconditionally wish it, because I cannot definitely know whether the persecution might not indeed be a good for me.
Are you doing good only out of the fear of punishment, so that you scowl even when you will the good, so that in your dreams at night you wish the punishment away and to that extent also the good, and in your daydreams delude yourself into thinking that one can serve the good with a slavish mind? Subjectivity comes with consciousness of myself as a self. It encompasses the emotional and intellectual resources that the individual is born with.
Subjectivity is what the individual is as a human being. Now the problem of subjectivity is to decide how to choose—what rules or models is the individual going to use to make the right choices? What are the right choices? Who defines right? To be truly an individual, to be true to himself, his actions should in some way be expressed so that they describe who and what he is to himself and to others.
The problem, according to Kierkegaard, is that we must choose who and what we will be based on subjective interests—the individual must make choices that will mean something to him as a reasoning, feeling being. Kierkegaard decided to step up to the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil for himself, replacing Adam , and make his choice in the presence of God, where no one was there to accuse or judge him but his Creator. This is what he had Abraham do in Fear and Trembling.
This is how Kierkegaard thought learning about oneself takes place. Here is where the single individual learns about guilt and innocence. His book, The Concept of Anxiety , makes clear that Adam did have knowledge when he made his choice and that was the knowledge of freedom. The prohibition was there but so was freedom and Eve and Adam decided to use it. In Kierkegaard 's meaning, purely theological assertions are subjective truths and they cannot be either verified or invalidated by science, i.
Early American Kierkegaard scholars tried to reduce the complexity of Kierkegaard's authorship by focusing on three levels of individual existence, which are named in passing by one of Kierkegaard's pseudonyms, Johannes Climacus, who wrote Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Though the stages represent only one way of interpreting Kierkegaard's thought, it has become a popular way of introducing his authorship. This typifies what Kierkegaard was talking about throughout his writing career. He was against "reflecting oneself out of reality" and partitioning the "world of the spirit" because the world of the spirit cannot be objectively divided.
Hegel wrote about his stages in his book, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion and Kierkegaard replied in his Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments These stages may be compared to those of the ages of man. The child is still in the primal immediate unity of the will with nature, as representing both his own nature and the nature which surrounds him.
The second stage, adolescence, when individuality is in process of becoming independent, is the living spirituality, the vitality of Spirit, which while setting no end before it as yet, moves forward, has aspirations, and takes an interest in everything which comes its way. The third is the age of manhood; this is the period of work for a particular end, to which the man makes himself subserviently, to which he devotes his energies.
Finally, old age might be considered as a last stage, which having the Universal before it as an end, and recognizing this end, has turned back from the particular interests of life and work to the universal aim, the absolute final end, and has, as it were, gathered itself together out of the wide and manifold interests of actual outward existence and concentrated itself in the infinite depths of its inner life.
Such are the determinations which follow in a logical manner from the nature of the Notion. At the close it will become apparent that even the original immediacy does not exist as immediacy, but is something posited. The child itself is something begotten. E B Speiers p. In the world of the spirit, the different stages are not like cities on a journey, about which it is quite all right for the traveler to say directly, for example: We left Peking and came to Canton and were in Canton on the fourteenth.
A traveler like that changes places, not himself; and thus it is alright for him to mention and to recount the change in a direct, unchanged form. But in the world of the spirit to change place is to be changed oneself, and there all direct assurance of having arrived here and there is an attempt a la Munchausen. The presentation itself demonstrates that one has reached that far place in the world of spirit.
The pseudonymous author and I along with them were all subjective. I ask for nothing better than to be known in our objective times as the only person who was not capable of being objective. That subjectivity, inwardness, is truth, that existing is the decisive factor, that this was the way to take to Christianity, which is precisely inwardness, but please note, not every inwardness, which was why the preliminary stages definitely had to be insisted upon-that was my idea, I thought that I had found a similar endeavor in the pseudonymous writings, and I have tried to make clear my interpretation of them and their relation to my Fragments.
In one popular interpretation of stage theory, each of the so-called levels of existence envelops those below it: an ethical person is still capable of aesthetic enjoyment, for example, and a religious person is still capable of aesthetic enjoyment and ethical duty. The difference between these ways of living are internal, not external, and thus there are no external signs one can point to determine at what level a person is living.
This inner and outer relationship is commonly determined by an individual by looking to others to gauge one's action, Kierkegaard believed one should look to oneself and in that relationship look to Christ as the example instead of looking at others because the more you look at others the less you see of yourself. This makes it easier to degrade your neighbor instead of loving your neighbor. But one must love the person one sees not the person one wishes to see.