Skip Ribbon Commands Skip to main content
}  Hegel was a pantheist: God (Absolute Spirit) created itself as the universe – physical but also conscious being.
}  Hegel’s goal: a unified understanding of the whole. Particulars can be understood only as parts of a totality.
}  History is the progress toward absolute knowledge and complete self-understanding (full self-consciousness.)
}  We are the vehicles of Spirit in this quest for absolute knowledge: our minds are part of a larger spiritual, social, and mental fabric. In fact, the individual is not important in his philosophy.
}  This progress happens in stages of development - modes (ways or forms) of knowing, behaving, group dynamics, and self-conception - in historical epochs and in personal development
}  The impetus to change [to move to the next stage] = despair, anxiety, doubt
}  Ethics: Rooted in a society’s total life (social roles, customs, duties, rituals, practices, relationships, family life)
The Three Stages of Ethical Development (396-98)
1. Ancient Greek ethics
What were their ethics?
What brought about the change to the next stage? (What was the “anxiety?” (the doubt that crept in))
2. Individualistic morality -Socrates
What changes did the Sophists and Socrates bring about?
What is the “anxiety” now?
2b. Kant: extreme individual ethics – bringing together freedom (autonomy) and morality
What is Hegel’s complaint about Kant’s categorical imperative? (397-8)
3. Ethical life
Why does Hegel think this is the best moral system?
What worries might we have about this system? (see 399)
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 Ethical Life
      The most important truths are not ‘objective,’ but ‘subjective’ (431)
      Passion/”Will” versus Reason
      Truth of Christianity = “a paradox” (439)  Why?
      “When the believer has faith, the absurd is not the absurd—faith transforms it.” (440)
METAPHYSICS: Kierkegaard’s Notion of the Self – “Becoming a Self”

Kierkegaard adapts and extends two earlier notions (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?”
For Kierkegaard, you are not just automatically ‘a self.’ 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?
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.
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 (Hegel’s Ethical Life)
      Telos = end or purpose
      The telos in Hegel = the ethical stance, the universal
      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 this is what Abraham does
      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?



© 2014 Irvine Valley College