I have been neglecting my blog. With midterms and papers due, I have a generous supply of excuses. I figured I might kill some time blogging about Kiekegaard for two reasons: 1.) I have a midterm tomorrow and he is involved 2.) I really want to kill some time.
Soren Kierkegaard (possibly pronounced without the final “d”) was a 19th century Danish philosopher, considered by many to be the “father of existentialism” (although he emerged virtually in unison with Nietzsche). Like most existentialist, Kierkegaard was fed up with the Idealistic times. Or rather Transcendental Idealism. While many misconceive what the movement was about–which perhaps is reason enough to be frustrated by it–Kierkegaard seemed to have a very astute grasp of its flaws.
Idealism–as if it were simply that easy to delve into–was more or less generated by Immanuel Kant. From a transcendent/ideal deduction, we can discover the conditions for possible experience. Yet, for Kant (and perhaps counter-intuitive for some detractors of idealism), all we can know is phenomena (not essence/noumena). However, we are left to deal with true metaphysical problems (which he reduces to ethics) from that transcendental perspective. One might ask–how did he get to that privileged philosophic point of view? What ladder did he use?
Well, Hegel stepped in and thought Kant didn’t go far enough. Indeed, how can we have a transcendent idealism if consicousness mediates all perception–even transcendental ones. He wanted that luscious noumena–so, in abstruse and convoluted prose–he figured out the ultimate system (after mere years since Kant claimed to begin philosophy it was already done!). Again, he thought that consciousness mediates all activities of the mind–in fact, all human performance is that of the mind. However, consciousness works in a logic–it works in thee Logic. To put it bluntly, Hegel thought that phenomenal experience contained the conditions to judge it noumenally–thus giving us the famed adage, “The Ideal is the Real.” They have an undivisable relationship that works out a logic–thesis, antithesis, and finally, a sythesis (which in turn becomes a new thesis). N.B. I’m leaving out much important information to the dialectic, such as immediate sense-certainty, unversals, master-slave dynamic.
Okay, this is a gross simplification, but it’s late and I’m just killing time. Here comes Kierkegaard who is a devout Christian (as was Kant and especially Hegel, coincidentally). He does not think that human experience can be reduced to a “what.” That is, he doesn’t believe that religion, based on faith, can be understood in terms of an indifferent logical dialectic with necessary and quantitative movements. Instead, Kiekegaard favors the “earnestness of dogma” wherein an individual speaks passionately to another group of individuals.
No longer is mankind simply a part of a dialectic that attunes (psychologically–many consider Kiekegaard one of the first and most innovative psychologists) us to a necessary logic, but instead we are attuned a more genuine, albeit more insecure, relation to existence, the fundamentally anxious experience of our freedom. Particularly, Kiekegaard wanted to understand man’s relation to sin. The problem: if Adam is considered the originator of hereditary sin, then he–in not first having it, but creating it–is outside the history of sinful man.
This is unacceptable for Kierkegaard–the Christian and philosopher of existentialism. You cannot submit existence to any kind of logical essence, which gives you the capacity to merely “explain away” existence and sin. No, in fact sin (at least psychologically-speaking) is sui generis, or self-causing. Man creates sin “in a qualitative leap” into sinfulness. Every human is made anxious (the very condition of their freedom–the dizzyness before the abyss of infinite and spiritually-determining decisions) and in anxiety they create sinfulness, yet sin was the precondition of sinfulness. In this way, man cannot explain away sin, but–in typical existential fashion–is made inexcusably responsible for his actions. And, for Kierkegaard, they are responsible for continually re-asserting their faith, and thus their spiritual/eternal self, in a temporal moment–this conjunction of infinite and temporal is called the “augenblick.”
Now Kiekegaard has made a pious and existentially genuine self who must continually take a leap of faith in the face of the absurd (i.e. logically “offensive”–as all faith is by definition) through repetition of faith-leaping behavior. Man is now genuinely oriented to hereditary sin as both an individual creation via their own sin in anxiety and a participation in the generational accretion of sin. The dispassioned Logic has been overturned by a more authentic and irrational approach to human existence and God.
Okay–well. I have to go now… Hope this isn’t all incorrect gibberish! haha.