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KIERKEGAARD: From Fear and Trembling
 
“It was early morning.  Abraham rose in good time, embraced Sarah, the bride of his old age, and Sarah kissed Isaac, who had taken her disgrace from her, was her pride and hope for all generations.  So they rode on in silence and Abraham’s eyes were fixed upon the ground, until the fourth day when he looked up and saw afar the mountain in Moriah, but he turned his gaze once again to the ground.  Silently he arranged the firewood, bound Isaac; silently he drew the knife.  Then he saw the ram that God had appointed.  He sacrificed that and returned home … From that day on, Abraham became old; he could not forget that God had demanded this of him.  Isaac throve as before, but Abraham’s eye was darkened; he saw joy no more.
 
When the child has grown and is to be weaned the mother virginally covers her breast, so the child no more has a mother.  Lucky the child that lost its mother in no other way!"
 
Compare this to Genesis 22. What emotional difference do you see? (What difference in tone?) Kierkegaard's points is twofold:
 
    1. Without risk, there is no faith. Abraham risks being wrong!
    2. Choices (like Abraham's to obey God) involve real individuals with real concerns. (Not just Hegel's 'World Spirit' going through its development.) 
 
 
 
 
EPISTEMOLOGY: Attack on Rationalist Philosophy
 
      Individual existence and choice versus the social whole or universalist ethics (like Kant's)
      The most important truths are not ‘objective,’ but ‘subjective.’ What does this mean? (431)
      Passion/”Will” versus Reason
      Truth of Christianity = “a paradox” Why? (439) 
      “When the believer has faith, the absurd is not the absurd—faith transforms it.” What does this mean? (440)
 
METAPHYSICS: Kierkegaard’s Notion of the Self – “Becoming a Self”

Kierkegaard adapts and extends two earlier notions. which you should remember from personal identity theory (434)
1. Hume
“When I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or another…. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception…. [Mankind] are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.”
 
What is Hume’s argument here?  What is his conclusion?
 
 
2. Descartes
“Is it not the same ‘I’ who is now doubting almost everything, who nonetheless understands some things, who affirms that this one thing is true, denies everything else, desires to know more, is unwilling to be deceived, imagines many things even involuntarily, and is aware of many things that apparently come from the senses?”
 
Which theory of personal identity is Descartes proposing here?
 
 
For Kierkegaard, you are not just automatically ‘a self.’ (a person) For him, the more self-conscious you are, the more you are a self.  See the chariot metaphor (434)
 
 
Anti-Climacus: “Consciousness is the decisive factor.  In general, what is decisive with regard to the self is consciousness, that is to say, self-consciousness.  The more consciousness, the more will; the more will, the more self.  Someone who has no will at all has no self.  But the more will he has, the more self-consciousness he has too.”
 
 
 
What all this means is that becoming a self, having a real 'identity' (not just a name, but a 'who-ness' and genuine identity) is a matter of commitment ('will'). See the film clips for Dreyfus' take on this.
 
  • ‘Becoming a self’ is an active project of ‘self-constitution.’
  • Constitution = a structuring, a procedure for decision-making and checking
  • Balancing the concerns between the finite self and the infinite self
  • True self-realization (the best constitution) is reached in the religious sphere


ETHICS: Existence Spheres (434-38)
 
1.      What are they?
2.      How do they influence action?
3.      How does a person move from one sphere to another?
 
Aesthetic Sphere
1.      How is it characterized?
2.      What is the value system?
 (

3.      What causes the anxiety or despair? (Anxiety here is not like test-taking anxiety or stage fright. It is the deep-seated, and sometimes barely even noticed or felt, feeling that something is wrong. When you notice it, it is “a splinter in your mind” as Morpheus says. And Kierkegaard thinks that most in the aesthetic sphere barely notice or feel it!)

 

 

4.      How much of a ‘self’ are you in this sphere? Note: for Kierkegaard, the more self-conscious you are, the more you are a self. That is, the more you are conscious of something's being wrong. Also, the more commitment you have, the more you are a self, and this relates to self-consciousness, since you must remain conscious of your values in order to be faithful to your commitments. (Think of an artist here.)
 
Ethical Sphere
1.      How is it characterized?
2.      What is the value system?
3.      What is the problem now?
4.      How much of a ‘self’ are you in this sphere?
 
Religious Sphere
1.      How is it characterized?
2.      What is the value system?
3.      How much of a ‘self’ are you in this sphere?
 
Teleological Suspension of the Ethical
In the ethical sphere:
 
      Telos = end or purpose
      The telos in Hegel = the ethical stance, the universal. ​The fully rational society.
      The ethical task = to “abolish” the particular to become the universal [subordinate yourself to the whole]
      Kant: duties from the categorical imperative, the universalizability test
      Hegel: duties as defined by social roles [the human telos in a rational society]
      Sin = acting against the universal
    But Abraham does act against the universal (He goes against his social role)
      Abraham’s ethical relationship to Isaac = father’s duty
      No universal [ethical-stance] justification for the sacrifice
      Compare Agamemnon’s sacrifice of Iphigenia, which “stays within the ethical” because it is for the good of Greece.
      Abraham has a higher telos outside the ethical
      His temptation = to not sacrifice Isaac [for the good of Israel]
      What is the argument here?

 

 

 

 

 

 
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