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Hoyt kierkegaard - ‘ary Period of mathe ll Wittgen— tnt...

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Unformatted text preview: ‘ary Period of mathe- ll. Wittgen— tnt dimen- y Susanne 1e age-old )hilosophy 1e value of JUSC, 1982. rk, Oxford nerican Li- ‘20- Soren Kierkegaard (1813—1855) As a philosopher totally responding to the personal dimension of life. Soren Kierkegaard understandably reacted against the abstractions of Hegel, Which he saw as hardly touching the real world—without place for the being whose meaning is our only real concern, the individual person. He spent his brief life trying to rectify this neglect. Kierkegaard was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1815 into a rigidly pietistic family. His father was a good man but endowed with a somber sense of God as a severe demander of righteous behavior, with misbehavior likely to be punished by a proportionate displeasure. He was a successful businessman and an influential figure, though he had 21 moody and melancholy disposition. The personality traits of his father contribxnted heavily to the psychological burden the already introspective young man had to carry, and he did the only thing he could to free himself, revo ' ' ' ion and, indeed, life in eneral. He en- rolled at the University of Copenhagen in theology, though his main interests were always philosophy and literature; he read enthusiastically the works of Plat hakes care and th ‘ He led a rather free—spirited life as a student, and gradually his earlier cyniciism wore off as he came to see the impor— tance of personal commitment to ethical and religious values. He wrote of a mo- ment of “indescribable joy” in_ May 1838,“;1 joy which C0015 and TCfrCShCS us like a breath of Wind, a wave of air, from the? rade Wind which blows from the plains of Ma - - - " ment Effoilti‘faf 131:8“? “imitations. 80 strong did this feeling of commit- qlat the re'~luireme to e [.115 engagicm M(“ V 3 c I. The Contemporaiy Period 472 C 4” '“““‘ “““ “2W. . . of the elements of this mission was ' rofound distrust of mstitutionywhich, by their own inner logicflgfifimif not absorb, the individual. This is why Kierkegaard, though he erve that one’s authentic individuality is measured by how one stands before God, declaimed against the Danish state church, and every institutionalized religion, as inimical to the true interests of the individual. He died in 1855.Though he died young, he had written voluminously Watch, His chief works are Fear and Trembling (1843), Either/Or (1843), Philosophical Fragments (1844), and Concluding Scientific Postscfipt to the Philosophical Fragments (1846). - ~--—I Kierkegaargygan inte l ' her because, for him, hiloso- phy is nothin more than a rsonal reflection on one’s lived experience. Life'i's' 753me ofabsTriEt logic, which is why, while not oblivious to _I;Ieg§_l_’s_,uudmabted tnerits, Kierkegaard rejected his ‘i idealismjsmjflimhidecapablgpidestmfing. thefiind‘iv’ihdual. The human being at“... L. must be fully aware of his individuali ' it is his ' ossession and unshared I by any other creature. But WWW particu- } - ~= ong the masses of people whom the in 1V1 ual 111 live with; the I y its very nature, is a destroyer of the mdividudfigagmufiry concept-is reasonof the fact IMJLI'CHQQEJEQ mdiviaual Com- te ‘ penitentandirmsponsihle.”, “4 "' " ‘ ""‘If the individual person is primary in Kierkegaard’s thought, and if authentic personhood resides in one’s relationship with God, then the first question to be , asked is, how does one,for Kierke aard, come to know God? is personalism pre- down the infinite God to the very argument used to prove His existence and “- would make it impossible for God to be thought of as being any different from the ‘ categories uscd to know Him] therefore do not prove that God exists; yet, it must i begacknowledgedwthatrwh ’ creisE‘ffs understand— , ing, it comes up againstw . _ muisihisxeny fact that compels me 1; to';re_cgg1_lize His existence as the—UM] am, according to Kierkegaafd, I driven by a troubled kind of certainty to assent to this Unknown, to the very God who blesses the leap I have made toward Him. In Kierkegaard’s own words: “So , I; also with the proof fior God’s existenceAs. long as I keep my hold on the proof, I i.e., continue to demonstrate, the existence does, not come out, if for no other ‘1 reason than that I am engaged in proving it; but when I let the proof go, the ex- istence is there.” He goes on: “Must not this also be taken into account, this little ; moment, brief as it may be—it need not be long, for it is a leap.” So, the intellec- tual commitment I make to the existence of God is profoundly personal and touches the mystery of the person-to—person relationship that, though reason- able, is not a matter of reason: Because God is in every sense believable and welcoming, I, by my personal choice, believe in Him; I_ make, in Kierkegaard’s unuS}_1§l-9?$PE§§$i9f.l,,a leap. ,tQWfllfd, Him,confident that the very meanm‘ gg my personhood requires it. A wwwwmaqiéwgifia‘s'description of his awareness of God’s existence and his re- sponse to that awareness is the immediate background of his notion of self- “~— ' Saren Kierke aard - v.37, - 4 -~ 4 g g saw, 0’3? . aw «i N, 6,5; gm ' ' agtqglization, which, of all notions, is the one that summarizes his thought. 0W; '- - Crowd existence, previously mentioned, violates self-identity, personhood, and 9 human dignity, whereas the goal of self-actualization is the affirmation of the indi- ‘ ' vidual as an individual, the making actual of the true self within. Self-actualization r = is a summons, not onl to my rational life for man is much more m * 7 to my affective and emotional life as well.The individual, in the process of realiz- I (q), ” ing himself, becomes a measure of himself, of society, and of mankind; he even 3,} . v n ) pleasures God in the sense that a God—man relationship has no meaning for me, o "S “m ‘ but a God-me relationst has.’l'he relationship I have‘with God is t .ultimat form of self-actualization because it represents the deepest level of commitment '\ g to the truth I canigisgovqer ' myself. Truth is not impersonal, formal; fiararaws 1 me‘to commit myself to EWt personally committed, let us say, to a mathe- S matical truth, but I am committed to those conditions, circumstances, ideas, g things, actions, and individuals that touch the living me. In Kierkegaard’s own :1 words, written as early as 1835, he sfld,fiWbout :- exce t insofar as knowledge Imus pre- 5 £5512gysqtagtyhatmattqaifls’ fit €13“ 08¢ Eaéé‘mifikfi really is that GM Y “wills that all do; the crucial thing is to" find a truth Which is truth for me, to a 1- En 014.9,”;',nznliiclitgmnyfliaglglwand die, Of What use would it be to mats) discover. a, socalled objective mmj‘amdmmaugh tuggfifid‘ssfifiteai‘sy; C ' tems so that I could, if asked, make critical judgments about them, could point ~ 6 out the fallacies in each system; of what use would it be to me to be able to de- 3- velop a theory of the state, getting details from various sources and combining N them into a whole, and constructing a world I did not live in but merely held up d for others to see; of what use would it be to me to be able to formulate the mean— ,e ing of Christianity, to be able to explain many specific points—if it had no deeper 2‘. caningjgtmmeantitanmmairi 9?" Zl- ‘Tfiroughout many of his works, Kierkegaard presents us with a description 16 of self-actualization as a movement through several stages or levels in which the 3, self is progressively realized. It is a growth, or even a dialectical development of f d sorts, in which the e , ts to the highest level of existence possible to — 30 him. He descri ‘ (mimic, the ethical, and the religious. Re if, calling that the word estheti eans “pertaining to the sense," the first stage ' 31‘ markedrb its saturatio 'th ' ' ' ‘ ' t of an X- * moral standard or firm religious faith, but out of pleasure or im ulse or emotion, 16 Wmfa'é'cfifin'fibflity > C- m equates his carefree ways with freedom. However, this kind of life ‘ - 1d cannot continue without grave consequences because, like a stone skimming ’ f n- over the water and suddenly going down beneath the surface, the esthetic man '6. m (b n ersion of his unanchored life amid an empty feeling of selflessness category that Kierkeng acutely and poignantly analyzes. Such ifies the moment when a person recognizes that his emptiness is 'n fact a becko ' g to a higher leve e ' ' 't is a “despair in truth,” the boundary e- , TC— : tween the est etic stage and ths is also the moment of choice; t Z ,1 , esthetic man m st choose to ascend to e ethical stage or to stay in the esthetic: g E “MANUWWWMM am“ 0..” 0 u: ‘U a: .. *1 m 5‘ Q}; ny\ .,,, ,< .~ 474 The Contempmuml Period either-or. Kierkegaard selects literary or real—life figures to typify these stages; the examplar of the esthetic man is Don Juan, the legendary lover. Here is a man who refuses to make the choice to go higher. As depicted in Mozart‘s opera, Don Gio— vanni is a lover of v ine wo n - an son ; ‘end as he sings of the carefree life he has led and refuses to give up, he is consumed in the flames of the burning ispersron of life y t e primacy of duty. A, person accepts morality as the re- ummunaa - - onally to choose a life of conWWst stage.A person ays'a‘s’iEl’Efli'e”a eedom” oft e first stage and accepts his new state wit all of its obligations; he lays aside, for example, the sexual carelessness of the esthetic life and, in taking a wife, accepts marriage in its full consequences. Sgcrates represented this kind of seriousness in his attitude toward universal obli- gation inasmuch as the firm stand he took before his accusers led to the surrender ' of his life; he is, in Kierkegaard’s eyes, a “tragic hero” who renounced his life to Gress the universal Yet, even if it‘ is true that the universal pertains to me as an individual—for “the ethical quality is jealous for its own integrity”—it may fail to provide me, as ' ' ‘ ' ' ' ‘ ‘ instances. So, it is possible, in this possibility leads to 5 /the.nextstage. ‘ ? ~V The transition to the third stage ‘ himse efore God," to see mself as 1 self and God because o n- ' 5 he -.‘ 1: himself to ate Godnes . 's joi for Kierkegaard, is a higher point than t e ccep an ‘ o e moral law ecaus ' marks the high- est ersonal transform tion whereby the self can b ems relationship with God; is the highest of either-0r c o - , . - . he hi est commitan a erson can make; and because no human c c th' demands of God, the choice, for all of its sureness, is blind; this is thug}; a person may be called upon to make, a leap from time to eternity, from the fi- -' ' o ' ' ' ‘ e—a movement of faith ccompanied ' e passion befitting a critical juncture in one’s life.As t e paragon of ~ faith, Kierkegaard chooses the Old Testament patriarch Abraham, singled out in V: the Bible as the “father of all those who believe." Heeding God’s command, ad- 3 dressed to him as an individual, Abraham, with all the reluctance a human , being can experience at surrendering his greatest love, was willing to sacrifice a his son Isaac, until his hand was stayed by the admonition of an angel.The ex- ‘ ample of Abraham, Kierkegaard tell us, offers two salient points of instruction. The first is that the leap of faith isgabsurd; On the one side, a person is sure that he must believe; on the other side is the vast uncertainty of What faith leads him to.To that extent the leap of faith is absurd, reminiscent of the para- dox of faith as stated by the ancient Christian,Tertullian:“I believe because it is .ponse of one’s own inwardness and a further step in the actualization‘tfl'Thé‘se'W {r n Swen Kierkegaard 475 absurd." The second point of instruction is that Abraham’s stance before God is the stance of an individual, answering to no one but God, and inasmuch as Abraham is not following the universal standard of morali ,he is breaking through the universal: “Thedparadox of faith," writes Kierkegaard,“is this, that ‘Wer ma}; the universal}? ‘ ’\*"“" “\ is third sta e, the reli ious, is the final sta e of self—actualization. It is a freedommgfw dread that haunts a person who takes I'Musly but who feels life’s meaning to be so elusive, so inconsistent, so 215- death, which is itself a universal phenomenon. It is the point at which the human being must ask whether life is an enduring value or, when all the votes are counted, nothing more than a dance on the edge of nothingness. We saw, with Socrates, that the response we make to the problem of death is the key to the meaning of life: Death is not primarily a biological problem, but a value prob- lem. For Kierkegaard, it is in the context of a life-giving faith that the fear of death is met and dread, which gnaws away at the substance of life at every level, is overcome.This is especially true of the person who experiences a profound sense of guilt at the prospect and actuality of sin. Dread, however, recedes at the coming of faith; guilt is assuaged with the saving love of God:“Here is the reason for joy: at every moment both present and future it is eternally certain that noth- ing invented by the most morbid imagination and translated into fact, which can shake the belief that God is love." Kierkegaard, as a committed but noninstitutionalized Christian, sees com- plete freedom and complete selfhood as realizable in Christ; it is He, by His in- carnation, who entered the “zone of the existential," thus creating the hoped-for bridge between time and eternity. For Kierkegaard, love of Christ is translated into the fundamental understanding of reality: “Christ sayszl will manifest myself to him who loves me . . . and the lover , . .himself is transformed into the likeness of the thing beloved, and to become what one loves is the only fundamental way of understanding.” Having possessed a“troubled truth," the man of faith now pos- sesses the assurance that all absurdity dissolves when he says,“1 believe." Kierkegaard‘s philosophy places him in the forefront of the personalist tra- dition. Eschewing the academic because it would restrict him to its categories, he delves into the unlit regions to discover the wellsprings of the human per- son.This aspect of this thought has worked its way into contemporary apprecia- tion of personhood and left an indelible impression on existentialism; it has given fresh insights to the psychologist and the theologian, as well as to the philosopher. ‘ i_—— 476 READINGS The Contemporary Period The Search for Personal Meaning (from Journals) What I really need is to get clear about what I must hat I must ,ex- _c ' ow e g; at God wills that I shallwdo; the crucial thing is to »\ ose, to seEV‘vhat it reall ' arid ie. what use would it be to me to 18C t.‘Wfii‘fTIIatters~is-to.find.a pur- find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I an wiling to live 1e ruth, to Work through the philosophical systems so that I could, if asked, make critical judgments about them, could point out the fallacies in each system; of what use would it be to me to be able to develop a theory of the state, getting details from various sources and combining them into a whole, and constructing a world I did not live in but merely held up for others to see; of what use would it be to me to be able to formulate the meaning of Christianity, to be able to explain many spe- kcific points—if it had no deeper meaning for me and for my life? And the better I “WWW mind, the more tragic my situation would be, not unlike that of parents who in their poverty are forced to send their children out into the world and turn them over to the care of others. Of what use would it be to me for truth to stand before me, cold and naked, not caring whether or not I acknowledged it, making me uneasy rather than trustineg receptive. rt ‘ t I s ' acce t an ' erative of kn led ' influenced, but then it must come alive in me, and this is what I now recognize as ms; important of all.This is W" so (inggand this is why I am like a whgjasmllecteifinnimreaented mapart- menthbutmasyet has not found the beloved to shareklifejsr ups and downs with w t...» ' t for water. This is what is lack- him. But inorder to 'tfiafid’é'aT—BETO put it more correctlthO’find‘myself, it 'dbeTTio good to plunge still farther into the world. That was just what I did be- fore. The reason I thought it would be good to throw myself into law was that I believed I could develop my keenness of mind in the many muddles and messes of life. Here, too, was offered a whole mass of details in which I could lose myself; here, perhaps,with the given facts,I could construct a totality, an organic view of criminal life, pursue it in all its dark aspects (here, too, a certain fraternity of spirit is very evident).I also wanted to become a lawyer so that by putting myself in an- other’s role I could, so to speak, find a substitute for my own life and by means of this external change find some diversion. This is not on something ca but upon something whic [Existents], through whic W W that I o - base the development of my thought not on—yes, L&-something which in any case is not my own, is bound up with the deepest roots of my existence I am, so to speak, grafted into the divine, to which I one 3 WM; % m1 51% , . .Mm—nfl—uw w “MWMMW, -w¢-«~um-m,,.mm.,. It Sm‘wz Kierkegwm‘d cling fast even thou this 175 what I strive who have fmmd th whether I see them on their chosen cou absorbed in themsel respect the by-path Ggg-sidepf man, MI, follow and will not t. causplig‘artcsmé'at tainly lookeif‘for' this sea ‘uf pastas as w: sistible power-with“ the counterfeit, enthl dom, the shattering, t pf howledgelndig XE? 99131 .mom seems-to me that I ha 7 ’I’ have sought to find Flay/"wit by supposing that si could not be otherwi: I Because I could not g. my own competence, ‘ What did I find? Not 1 imagined my soul, if I ternal surroundings v seeking and finding 01 BfiWl _ aftgr‘tha’t’the fiindéihe ., alljiifilic‘iasifliéham ; 0 at irksome, sinistel which hark Side, I —=--—:-.......-... .,...Qne must“ 1] (WCDBL cé omtov). Not ; the course he is to male '-- \h—‘——.~%—.- self in the sphere of k knowing ‘ gates), J11: of moral / ' esper tradewinds virtue. H then hurls him into th thought, “After all, thing rigorous interrogation. . the past, only to make lets him feel happy aml ,wmmmwmwwmum ' ‘ “ ’ "* 'r' "i: ‘ ‘ ’ “‘ wmmpmwi, aw Soren Kierkegaard 477 cling fast even though the whole world may collapse. This is what I need, and this is what] strive for I find joy and refreshment in contemplating the great men who have found that precious stone for which they sell all, even their lives, whether I see them becoming vigorously engaged in life, confidently proceeding on their chosen course without vacillating, or discover them off the beaten 'path, absorbed in themselves and in working toward their high goal. I even honor and respect the by-path which lies so close by, It is this inward action of man, this God-side ogwhlch lS decrswe, not. a mass of data, for t e a er w' no dou t follow and Will not then appear as accrdenta aggregates or_as a sucggssmm g;— tailsfone EEer the other, without a system, without a focal point. I, too, have cer- o tainly'fiioke r7515 focal 93m; EWIWWW in the boundless WWW” Well as in thg§2£h§.9f.kn0‘¥1§Q£Q-.I ,haygieltthé. 3191,95???- sistiblepoweryith which one pleasure reaches a hand, to the next; I have alsohfélt .. . -__..-....._q, . ""‘ ’ the..eounxcrfsiti;¢.fiih. .§.i%$!2.1 . t‘fsiféféififiiéibrxpgégygingjjiiiétéarsa‘rert the" ‘b’b‘fé— ‘ dom, the shattering, which follows on its heels.I hW of knowledge ,_ time ' e, delighted] _>Aeir_savor_inesws'. But this joy ' was only in the moment of lefinnflgepqmmh 7 569111510 1116 IhQF.U_1.§X§_Q(LLdmnkftgflm; ‘ t havejallcnimgit.. ‘I'liave sought to find the principle for my life through resignation [Resignation], by supposing that since everything proceeds according to inscrutable laws it could not be otherwise, by blunting my am...
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